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U.S. agency admits demand for ethanol-gasoline fuel not as high as anticipated

August 07, 2013

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that demand for ethanol-related fuel probably isn't enough to meet the requirements of federal law and changes may need to be made next year, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.

In a regulatory announcement released Aug. 6, "EPA Finalizes Renewable Fuel Standards," the EPA said that for 2014 "the ability of the market to consume ethanol in higher blends such as E85 is highly constrained as a result of infrastructure- and market-related factors. EPA does not currently foresee a scenario in which the market could consume enough ethanol sold in blends greater than E10, and/or produce sufficient volumes of non-ethanol biofuels to meet the volumes of total renewable fuel and advanced biofuel as required by statute for 2014. Therefore, EPA anticipates that in the 2014 proposed rule we will propose adjustments to the 2014 volume requirements, including the advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel categories."

The AMA has repeatedly expressed concerns to government officials and federal lawmakers about possible damage to motorcycle and ATV engines caused by the inadvertent use of a new ethanol fuel blend called E15, which is 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline by volume. None of the estimated 22 million motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles in use is approved for E15, and its use can even void manufacturer's warranties.

Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations, applauded the EPA announcement.

"For motorcyclists, this means that if the EPA rolls back on the volume of E15-and-higher ethanol-gasoline blends that must be produced, then there may be greater opportunities to fill up our gas tanks and cans with E10 and even E0 fuel," he said. "Only one E15 test has been done by the EPA, and we have asked that motorcycles and ATVs be part of an independent scientific study into the effects of E15 on engines."

E10 has 10 percent ethanol and is common around the country. E0, which is much less common, has no ethanol.

"We are pleased that the EPA recognizes that market and other factors play a role in how much ethanol refiners can put in gasoline and make a profit," Allard said. "It really doesn't do much good to have laws and rules telling refiners to create volumes of ethanol-gasoline blends that consumers won't buy."

Allard cautioned that this announcement applies to 2014 volume requirements.

The EPA announcement further stated: "We expect that in preparing the 2014 proposed rule, EPA will estimate the available supply of cellulosic biofuel and advanced biofuel volumes, assess the ethanol blendwall and current infrastructure and market-based limitations to the consumption of ethanol in gasoline-ethanol blends above E10, and then propose to establish volume requirements that are reasonably attainable in light of these considerations and others as appropriate."

Ethanol is essentially grain alcohol produced from crops that is mixed with gasoline to produce an ethanol-gasoline blend motor fuel. In October 2010, the EPA approved the use of E15 in model year 2007 and newer light-duty vehicles (cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles). Then, in January 2011, the EPA added model year 2001-06 light-duty vehicles to the approved list. No motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles are approved for E15 use.

"We encourage Congress and the EPA to continue to work towards a long-term solution to ensure safe access to fuels for motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles," Allard said. "The first step is for federal lawmakers to support an independent, scientific study into the effects of E15 on motorcycle and ATV engines because of the possibility of motorcyclists and ATV riders inadvertently putting E15 into their gas tanks when the fuel becomes more widely available.

"We also urge AMA members, the motorcycling community and all concerned citizens to contact their federal lawmakers soon and ask them to support this type of research."

To contact your lawmakers, go to www.americanmotorcyclist.com/rights/ and click on "Issues & Legislation."

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