The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Big Ethanol’s E10 Giveaway

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted August 15, 2014

Helmets off – as in motorcycle helmets – to the Renewable Fuel Association (RFA) for conducting an E10 fuel giveaway at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally earlier this month in South Dakota.

We know Big Ethanol prefers ethanol in stronger doses than E10 (up to 10 percent content), but RFA must realize its efforts to get more of the higher ethanol-blend E15 into the nation’s fuel supply has risks with certain audiences.

reducedTake motorcycle enthusiasts. The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has been direct in its concerns about E15 in the fuel marketplace:

Inadvertent misfueling with E15 (15 percent ethanol by volume) fuel is a significant concern to AMA members. E15 use can void manufacturers’ warranties, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged that E15 can damage engines. Although the EPA has approved its use in 2001-and-newer light-duty vehicles – which include cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles – the EPA has not approved its use in the estimated 22 million motorcycles and ATVs currently in operation. … Preventing these inadvertent misfuelings has been one of the AMA’s main concerns, because a vast majority of motorcycles and ATVs on the road and trail in the United States today are not designed to run on ethanol blends higher than 10 percent. And many older machines favored by vintage motorcycle enthusiasts have problems with any ethanol in the fuel.

Hence RFA’s E10 gesture in Sturgis, called “Ride Safe, Fuel Right.” RFA acknowledges that E15 and motorcycles don’t do well together and figures that giving away a tank of E10 will generate more love for ethanol in general. No doubt, folks attending the Sturgis rally appreciated the promotion.

Meanwhile, we wish RFA would be as charitable toward others who have E15 concerns. Like owners of outdoor power equipment and boat engines. And AAA – on behalf of motorists who could see damage to engines and fuel systems from using E15 in their vehicles. This concern is serious enough for automobile manufacturers to warn that E15 damage to vehicles not designed to use E15 wouldn’t be covered by warranties.

Yet, we’ve heard of no promotions by RFA to fix damaged vehicles or replace messed-up weed trimmers. Neither have we seen RFA concern for small business owners who would bear the costs of refitting filling stations with equipment that’s able to tolerate higher ethanol-blend fuels, which could be required under an E15 proposal the city of Chicago is considering – a mandate backed by RFA.

While we’re glad for motorcycle enthusiasts who received some motorcycle-friendly E10 from RFA in South Dakota, RFA should spread the love around. E10 is the nation’s staple fuel – available everywhere and reliable. E10 as well as E0 (containing no ethanol) are the fuels that are safe and widely accepted, a reality that’s not served by mandates for ever-increasing ethanol use under the flawed Renewable Fuel Standard.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.