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New survey reveals Americans fear E15 fuel may damage engines

October 22, 2013

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- A recent survey found that more than three-fourths of Americans fear that E15 fuel may damage car engines and fuel system components, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.

Also, more than two-thirds of those surveyed believe that using more corn for ethanol production could force up food prices, the AMA said.

E15 is a fuel blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has approved for use in 2001-and-newer passenger vehicles. Ethanol is grain alcohol produced from crops such as corn that is mixed with gasoline to produce an ethanol-gasoline blend motor fuel.

E15 is not approved for use in any motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, boats, lawn mowers and other small engines. Since 2011, the AMA has repeatedly 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 is now becoming available at gas stations.

The survey findings were released on Oct. 2 by the American Petroleum Institute, which sponsored the poll. The API is a national trade association that represents America's oil and natural gas industry.

Some 77 percent of registered voters are concerned that ethanol blends above a 10 percent level can cause severe damage to car engines and fuel system components, according to the poll.

Also, 69 percent of those surveyed said that using more corn for ethanol production could increase consumer prices for groceries due to a reduction in the corn supply for food, food products and animal feed.

The survey was conducted by telephone between Sept. 19-23 by Harris Interactive. Pollsters surveyed 1,034 registered voters across the country. The survey has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percent, which means that the results could vary by 3 percent either way if the survey had involved the entire U.S. population of registered voters.

"The bottom line is that motorcyclists want access to safe fuels for motorcycles," said AMA Vice President for Government Relations Wayne Allard. "Given marketplace realities, wherever E15 is sold there will very likely be misfueling issues due to confusing or improper labeling at the pump. Misfueling 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."

Research results released by the Coordinating Research Council indicate that 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.

Moreover, the California Air Resources Board has told the AMA that even if it approves the sale of the new E15 ethanol-gasoline blend in California, the blend wouldn't appear in the market for several years. Specifically, CARB wanted time to complete the necessary vehicle testing and rule development in order to introduce a new transportation fuel into California's market. CARB made the comment in response to a letter from Allard, who expressed concern about potential misfueling of E15 into motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.

"The AMA wants motorcycles and ATVs to be part of an independent 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," said Allard. "Not only should the study focus on the short- and long-term impacts on vehicles and engines, it should also quantify the financial toll that increased ethanol in gasoline will levy on consumers, dealers and service facilities, vehicle and engine manufacturers, fuel retailers, distributors and producers, and the environment." 

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