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DC Insider: Risk of E15 misfueling may increase with federal program

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Last August, I posted a blog titled, “Paying from both ends to support ethanol.” It was about how the U.S. Department of Agriculture was subsidizing ethanol production from the start by providing grants to purchase special ethanol blender pumps.

The blog post elicited several comments and I wanted to provide an update on the latest efforts of the AMA on the E15 front. E15 is a blend of gasoline that includes up to 15 percent ethanol by volume.

On April 24, the AMA provided comments regarding grants and loans for the Agriculture Department’s Rural Energy for America Program’s renewable energy systems (e.g., special ethanol blender pumps).

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced in 2011 that the USDA intends to install 10,000 blender pumps by 2016. REAP will be a key component to achieve the secretary’s goal and, thus, help grow the availability of E15 fuel.

These special ethanol blender pumps will further limit access to E10-or-less fuel in rural areas. This will be a problem because rural areas tend to have an older “legacy” vehicle fleet than other parts of the country. Moreover, rural areas are the most vulnerable places for motorcyclists and users of small engine devices because options for regular gasoline may be few or even non-existent.

The REAP will help one segment of the rural economy at the cost of other segments. Ultimately, the higher costs will have a negative impact on small rural economies.

These special ethanol blender pumps may increase misfueling by consumers. In fact, the EPA is concerned enough to issue a plan for retailers on its website’s “E15: Misfueling Mitigation Plans” page to try to avoid misfueling by consumers.

The REAP grant and loan program to purchase special ethanol blender pumps will only worsen the possibility of misfueling by consumers.

Like always, the AMA has you—the motorcyclist—in mind concerning the unproven effects of E15 fuel on your ride.

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