The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to allow the ethanol portion of blended gasoline to be increased from the current 10 percent to 15 percent for certain vehicles, which could pose a danger for motorcycles.
On Oct. 13, the EPA announced approval of a waiver for E15. Under the decision, E15 is now approved for use in model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. It isn't approved for use in any other gasoline-fueled engines. To see the EPA news release, go to http://tinyurl.com/US-EPA-E15.
"The AMA supports the use of cleaner-burning fuels, but we are concerned that gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol could result in premature engine damage or failure while a motorcycle is being ridden," said Imre Szauter, AMA government affairs manager. "We're also concerned about any degradation in performance, fuel economy and rideability that may result from the long-term use of blended fuels with greater than 10 percent ethanol."
The EPA, in allowing more ethanol in gas, specifically said that its decision covers model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks, and no other vehicles at this time, including motorcycles.
"Motorcycle manufacturers only certify their machines to run on gasoline or a blend with up to 10 percent ethanol, which is known as E10," Szauter said. "So using the 15 percent blend in a motorcycle could void the bike's warranty."
Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying group, asked the EPA in March 2009 to allow gasoline to contain up to 15 percent ethanol. It's part of an effort to meet a congressional mandate to increase to 36 billion gallons the amount of renewable fuel available in the United States by 2022. Ethanol, made from corn and other crops, is considered a renewable fuel.
For more than three years the AMA has been on the record opposing increases in the ethanol level allowed in gasoline until studies show that an increase won't damage motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle (ATV) engines, and won't make motorcycles emit more nitrogen oxides than are allowed by the EPA.
"The message we want to deliver today is that once E15 gas is offered for sale, there are a variety of reasons not to put it in your motorcycle or ATV gas tank," Szauter said. "In fact, the EPA even says you aren't allowed to put E15 in your bike."
The EPA said a decision on the use of E15 in model year 2001 to 2006 vehicles will be made after new test results are received. The EPA is also proposing E15 pump labeling requirements so that consumers don't mistakenly put E15 in the wrong vehicles.
Bob Greco, spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, told The Wall Street Journal that by approving E15 without full testing, the EPA is putting "politics before science."
"You're going to have fuels in the marketplace that could damage engines and void warranties," Greco told the newspaper.
The AMA is a member of AllSAFE, the Alliance for a Safe Alternative Fuels Environment, a group formed to ensure that fuels containing ethanol are promoted in a thoughtful manner. AllSAFE is made up of associations that represent consumer and commercial users of ethanol blends, manufacturers of boats, vehicles, engines and equipment, and retailers who sell gasoline and ethanol-fuel blends.