[photo courtesy AMA; Jay Westcott]
On June 19, motorcyclists and antique car owners shared their concerns with higher ethanol blend fuels and the damage they cause engines during the American Motorcyclist Association’s E15 Fuel for Thought Rally at the US Capitol in Washington DC. The riders and vintage auto enthusiasts gathered to urge independent testing of the E15 ethanol fuel blend before it is allowed for sale at retail gas stations.
Riders attending the American Motorcyclist Association’s “E15: Fuel for Thought event represented millions of Americans who are concerned with E15. According to the AMA, several congressmen and women also questioned the EPA’s decision to allow the sale of E15.
The AMA has expressed concerns to government officials and federal lawmakers about possible damage to the estimated 22 million motorcycles and ATVs currently in use by the inadvertent use of E15, which could even occur if a rider selects a fuel grade other than E15 on a fuel blender pump and receives E15 leftover in the hose from a previous user. The AMA cites results released by the Coordinating Research Council that reveal E15 would damage millions of post-2001 model-year vehicles even though the EPA has approved the use of E15 in those vehicles. The study concluded that E15 would result in fuel-system failures in cars and other approved vehicles.
E15 is a fuel blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline that the EPA has approved for use in 2001 and later light-duty vehicles, which include cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles. The blend isn’t approved for use in any motorcycle, ATV, boat or other small engine.
“When you have a type of fuel that, if inadvertently used, has the potential to damage engines and fuel systems and void a manufacturer’s new-vehicle warranty, you really should move with caution when it comes to putting that fuel in the marketplace,” said AMA Board Chairman Maggie McNally.
Created under the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005 and expanded two years later, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program mandates the increase the volume of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. That’s a ton of corn.
The AMA and other groups are urging Congress to readdress the mandate. The association wants motorcycles and ATVs to be part of a scientific study on the effects of E15 so that riders know what to expect if they inadvertently put E15 in their gas tanks, or if E15 is eventually approved for motorcycle and ATV use.
Ethanol blended into gasoline has been shown to cause premature engine damage from condensation and result in corrosion, rust, clogging, and deterioration of fuel-system components. Newer cars are constructed with materials that resist ethanol’s potentially harmful properties, but smaller engine manufacturers have been slow to catch up.
Who should be concerned? E15 could impact every American motorcyclist and ATV enthusiast, plus anyone who owns an pre-2001 car as well as owners of lawnmowers, boats and snowmobiles. For now, the EPA is merely telling alarmed consumers not to use E15. But according to the American Automotive Association (AAA), fully 95 percent of US consumers remain unaware of what E15 is and the damage it can cause. The fuel has been available for sale at gas stations in the US since 2011.
“As ethanol blending requirements escalate in the coming years, our nation will increasingly be forced to grapple with the negative consequences of the RFS,” Steve McDonald, vice president of government affairs for SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association), wrote last week in the political blog The Hill. “Until Congress takes decisive action to protect Americans and their engines from the impacts of higher ethanol blends,” McDonald added, “the message from … enthusiasts will be clear: hit the brakes on E15.”
Wayne Allard, the former US senator and representative from Colorado who is now vice president for government relations at the American Motorcyclist Association, recaps the AMA’s E15 Fuel For Thought Lobby Day and writes of the dangers of E15 and the AMA’s official stance on the AMA’s website.
For more information on E15, visit www.SmarterFuelFuture.org.