The small engine group Alliance for a Safe Alternative Fuels Environment (AllSAFE), of which the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute is a member, is supporting a recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement letter addressing self-directed blender pumps at retail outlets and the risks involved when using fuel blends containing more than 10% ethanol.
According to the EPA, “Gasoline containing more than 10% ethanol may cause damage to certain emissions control devices and systems and increased emissions from gasoline-only vehicles and engines. For this reason, the Clean Air Act prohibits retail gasoline stations from selling gasoline blended with more than 10% ethanol for use in gasoline-only vehicles and engines.” The letter also states that EPA will be taking steps to investigate the retail distribution of non-compliant fuel.
Kris Kiser, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute vice president of public affairs, says AllSAFE members are pleased to see the EPA letter, since the proliferation of ethanol blender pumps at retail outlets in some regions of the country pose potentially serious problems for consumers and manufacturers.
Blender pumps allow users to select various levels of ethanol when dispensing fuel. Yet, current law only allows ethanol levels from up to 10% (E10) for general purpose fuel and up to 85% (E85) for use in “flexible fuel” automobiles. Many pumps are inadequately labeled, so consumers are often unaware that ethanol levels above 10% are only recommended for “flexible fuel vehicles.” AllSAFE recommends that consumers check their owner’s manuals or with the manufacturer to identify the proper fuel for their vehicle or product.
“Current labeling fails to properly inform the consumer of the potential harm that a ‘mid-level’ ethanol blend may do to an automobile, motorcycle, boat, chain saw, lawnmower, ATV, snowmobile, generator or any other engine product,” says Kiser. “It is not simply a recommendation, but in fact, it is a violation of federal law to dispense fuels with greater than 10% ethanol in anything but a flexible fuel vehicle.”
The Energy Independence and Security Act enacted last year by the U.S. Congress mandates the use of substantially more ethanol in the fuels marketplace. The U.S. Department of Energy, EPA and industry have begun testing various ethanol blends on vehicles and engine products to determine their effects. Only flexible fuel automobiles are designed to run on fuel blends above E-10. Using blends beyond the legal E10 in vehicles and products not designed to handle higher ethanol levels will likely void manufacturers’ warranties and may result in safety risks to the user and performance irregularities.
The group’s members do not object to increasing the overall amount of ethanol used in the nation’s gasoline supply as long as the amount of ethanol for sale to the general public does not exceed the legal and recommended 10% per gallon, or 85% per gallon for specially designed flexible fuel vehicles.