AAA calls on EPA to suspend sales of E15

December 3, 2012 |

In Florida, AAA is reporting that a recent survey finds a strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties in the use of E15 gasoline.

AAA reports, “An overwhelming 95 percent of consumers surveyed have not heard of E15, a newly approved gasoline blend that contains up to 15 percent ethanol. With little consumer knowledge about E15 and less than five percent of cars on the road approved by automakers to use the fuel, AAA is urging regulators and the industry to stop the sale of E15 until motorists are better protected.”

The survey findings related to consumer knowledge of E15 are from a telephone survey conducted among a national probability sample of 1,012 adults comprising 504 men and 508 women 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental United States.

The EPA has approved E15 for use in passenger vehicles and light trucks (model year 2001 and newer) vehicles. It is not approved for use in other gasoline-powered engines, such as lawnmowers, chainsaws, leaf blowers, snowmobiles, boats or motorcycles.

According to AAA, five manufacturers (BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen) are on record saying their warranties will not cover fuel-related claims caused by the use of E15. Seven additional automakers (Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo) have stated that the use of E15 does not comply with the fuel requirements specified in their owner’s manuals and may void warranty coverage.

AA added that the only vehicles currently approved by automakers to use E15 are flex-fuel models, 2001 model-year and newer Porsches, 2012 model-year and newer GM vehicles and 2013 model-year Ford vehicles. These approvals extend only to cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles (SUVs). The use of E15 is expressly prohibited in heavy-duty vehicles, boats, motorcycles, power equipment, lawn mowers and off-road vehicles.

AAA concludes that “only about 12 million out of the more than 240 million light-duty vehicles on the roads today are approved by manufacturers to use E15 gasoline, based on a survey conducted by AAA of auto manufacturers.”

Flagging concerns in vehicle damage

AAA automotive engineering experts also have reviewed the available research and believe that sustained use of E15 in both newer and older vehicles could result in significant problems such as accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage and false “check engine” lights for any vehicle not approved by its manufacturer to use E15.

“It is clear that millions of Americans are unfamiliar with E15, which means there is a strong possibility that many motorists may improperly fill up using this gasoline and damage their vehicle,” said AAA President & CEO Robert Darbelnet. “Bringing E15 to the market without adequate safeguards does not responsibly meet the needs of consumers.”

“AAA supports the development and use of alternative fuels,” the organization added in a press statement. “More than 95 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States contains up to 10 percent ethanol. Lower ethanol blends should remain available to consumers while the challenges with E15 are addressed.”

“The sale and use of E15 should be suspended until additional gas pump labeling and consumer education efforts are implemented to mitigate problems for motorists and their vehicles,” continued Darbelnet. “Consumers should carefully read pump labels and know their auto manufacturer’s recommendations to help prevent any problems from E15.”

AAA urges fuel producers and regulators to do a better job of educating consumers about potential dangers before selling E15 gasoline. This outreach should include a consumer education campaign and more effective pump labels, among other potential safeguards to protect consumers and their vehicles. AAA also recommends additional testing to conclusively determine the impact of E15 use on vehicle engines and fuel system components. At least  ten gas stations currently sell E15 and that number is expected to grow, which means now is the time to suspend sales before more retailers begin offering the fuel.

Industry responds

“The press release issued by the AAA has no scientific basis and is nothing more than hollow criticism lacking any facts to back up the irresponsible claims,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis.

“E15 is the most tested fuel to date and the Department of Energy (DoE), a true expert on the matter has studied the fuel extensively, more than six million miles, coming to the conclusion that, “the resulting Energy Department data showed no statistically significant loss of vehicle performance (emissions, fuel economy, and maintenance issues) attributable to the use of E15 fuel compared to straight gasoline.”

“E15 is the most extensively tested fuel in the history of the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Josh Morby, executive director of the Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance. “As part of the approval process, the EPA has also established a throughout consumer education program.”

The EPA in June officially approved the sale of E15 after receiving a waiver request from producers interested in expanding the use of corn-based ethanol. Despite objections by auto manufacturers, the EPA approved the use of E15 gasoline in flex-fuel vehicles and 2001 model year and newer cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles and SUVs. AAA urges consumers to follow the recommendations of manufacturers to truly protect themselves from voided warranties or potential damage.

The bottom line

The dispute between industry and AAA hinges on acceptance of E15 by auto manufacturers – who have liability concerns in the case of misfueling or auto performance.

At this stage, it is something of an academic exercise. E15 is not extensively distributed. Only one retailer in Kansas, Zarco 66, was able to secure low reid vapor pressure (RVP) gasoline from a State Implementation Plan (SIP) area of Kansas City, and was thus able offer E15 during the summer — in Lawrence and Ottawa, Kansas.

More on the story.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , ,

Category: Policy

Thank you for visting the Digest.