By Steve Noe
If you believe that 13 is an unlucky number, then chances are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) didn’t do anything to help you get over that superstition on Oct. 13, 2010.
On that historic day, the EPA announced that it is waiving a limitation on selling fuel that contains more than 10-percent ethanol (E10) and up to 15-percent ethanol (E15) for model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks.
“Thorough testing has now shown that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, who made the decision after a review of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) extensive testing and other available data on E15’s impact on engine durability and emissions. “Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America’s vehicles, this administration takes those steps.”
Although Jackson’s statement may be true when it comes to E15’s impact on model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks, the same cannot necessarily be said about the effects of E15 on more than 200 million pieces of outdoor power equipment without the use of fuel additives.
“The Department of Energy’s own testing has shown that putting anything other than E10 in non-road, small engines can cause performance irregularities and equipment failure,” said Kris Kiser, executive vice president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). “Consumers need to understand this or they could encounter performance irregularities, increased heat and exhaust temperatures, failure or unintentional clutch engagement when using outdoor lawn and garden equipment.
“Consumers should understand that current outdoor power equipment may be permanently damaged and could pose a safety risk if E15 fuel is used,” added Kiser. “Almost without exception, current equipment is not designed, built, or warranted for mid-level blends.”
EPA is not granting a waiver this year for E15 use in outdoor power equipment because current testing data does not support such a waiver. However, the concern with the Oct. 13 waiver is that the drivers of those E15-approved vehicles are likely to pump E15 into both their vehicles and their gas cans for their outdoor power equipment. They will then pour E15 from the gas can into their E10-approved outdoor power equipment -- without using an ethanol fuel stabilizer -- which could lead to product failure, void the warranty, and pose a safety risk.
EPA is proposing a regulatory program to help mitigate potential misfueling of certain engines, vehicles and equipment with gasoline containing greater than E10 and no more than E15. This proposed rule would require all E15 fuel dispensers to have a label if a retail station chooses to sell E15.
However, you and I both know this it is highly unlikely that most people will notice or even bother to read these labels before fueling their vehicles and gas cans or switch from an E15 pump to fuel their vehicle to an E10 pump to fill the gas can for their outdoor power equipment. Or, they may not know, or forget, to use an ethanol fuel stabilizer.
OPEI is so concerned about the potential effects of E15 on outdoor power equipment that immediately following the EPA’s ruling, it issued a consumer alert, which can be found on page 10. I strongly recommend that you post a copy of this column and OPEI’s consumer alert in a highly visible place in your dealership and be sure to call both to the attention of your customers. Also, please be sure to read Dave Worden’s “Tech2Tech” article about ethanol on pages 22-23 and share it with your service technicians.
For more information, visit www.opei.org or www.epa.gov/otaq/regs/fuels/additive/e15/.
OPE Editor Steve Noe