(CNSNews.com) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that all consumers in the United States must purchase at least 4 gallons of gasoline when they go to the gas station, if they are getting fuel from a pump that also offers a new E15 ethanol-gasoline blend.
The Obama administration wants consumers to use more of the E15 fuel – a blend that contains 15 percent ethanol – but the problem is that many gas stations use blender pumps, which offer several types of fuel and, after pumping, there always is a residual amount of fuel in the hose. E15 fuel can potentially damage engines made prior to 2000 and it cannot be used in motorcycles, ATVs, and many other engines, such as lawn mowers and boat engines.
So, to circumvent the potential problems, the EPA is requiring a 4-gallon minimum from blender pumps to ensure that any E15 fuel residue is diluted. (Stations that provide a completely separate, single hose for E15 only are exempt from the rule.)
But many lawmakers, as well as motorcycle and off-road specialists, say the EPA rule is not a viable solution and that requiring people to buy a minimum of 4 gallons of gasoline is not acceptable.
The Obama administration announced in April that it had begun issuing waivers to allow for the sale of gasoline that contains 15 percent volume ethanol (E15), a product previously not approved for the market.
“To enable widespread use of E15, the Obama Administration has set a goal to help fueling station owners install 10,000 blender pumps over the next 5 years,” stated an EPA press release on April 2.
The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), which represents 225,000 members across the country, has reached out to the EPA over their concern over E15.
“At the current time we’re not aware of any manufacturer of motorcycles that has approved E15 for the use in motorcycle engines,” said AMA Spokesperson Pete terHorst. “So, the AMA has been asking the EPA what it will do to prevent the inadvertent fueling of motorcycles with E15 fuel. That’s a big concern to our members.”
TerHorst said the mandate is not feasible. “The EPA’s solution to that problem is, ‘Well, we’re going to require everybody to buy 4 gallons of gas so it will dilute the effects of E15,’” he said.
“Well, many motorcycle tanks don’t hold 4 gallons of gas, that’s a stretch,” said terHorst.
In addition, in a June 29 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the AMA’s vice president for government relations, Wayne Allard, said, “[T]he use of E15 will lower fuel efficiency and possibly cause premature engine failure. Use of E15 fuel voids many manufacturer warranties. In off-road engines, the effects can be dangerous for users.”
Jamie D. Moore, director of federal government affairs at Tesoro Companies, an independent refiner and marketer of petroleum products, said the regulation affects more than just motorcycle owners.
“EPA has approved E15 for certain models but most of the auto manuals say this car is not approved for E15 fuel,” he said.
“And so, where the average consumer pulls up to the station and their car isn’t approved for E15, this is the Agency’s way of getting around that by forcing consumers to buy more than they need, perhaps more than they need for the purpose of diluting any E15 backwash,” Moore said.
The issue has also drawn criticism on Capitol Hill, with two members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology demanding answers from the EPA.
“The EPA has no business telling Americans how much fuel they must purchase,” wrote Representatives James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Chip Cracaack (R-Minn.) in a letter to the EPA on Sept. 10.
The congressmen have asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson what authority the agency had to issue the policy since it was not present in the final rule issued in July 2011, but first appeared in sample letters the department sent to companies approving “Misfueling Mitigation Plans” this year.
“EPA’s first-ever fuel purchase requirement appears to have been made outside the normal rulemaking process, seems antithetical to free markets, and highlights the flaws in the Agency’s hasty decision to grant partial waivers for E15 prior to comprehensive scientific assessment and evaluation,” the lawmakers said.
“EPA’s requirement that consumers purchase a minimum of 4 gallons of E15 is an absurd solution to a defective policy,” said Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.). “Simply put, this is a thinly veiled attempt to mitigate a bad policy that was defective from the start and the latest example of a bureaucracy forcing unnecessarily burdensome regulations on the already-suffering consumer.”
“Oklahomans have always been adamantly opposed to E15 not only because of its bad fuel economy but because of the detrimental effects E15 has on engines,” he said.
“EPA’s latest move proves they are correct,” said Inhofe.
Currently, only a small handful of retailers are selling E15. However, the large number of blender pump locations in the Midwest could lead to more retailers selling the fuel and more consumers having to face the minimum 4-gallon purchase rule.
As of February 2011, there were more than 263 stations with blender pump dispensers, primarily concentrated in Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota.
It is unclear how the EPA will enforce the policy since it did not appear in the final rule. “I don’t know how they’re going to enforce it and that’s the question,” said Moore.
“I mean, they’re not going to go manage gas pumps, but there’s got to be some sort of process whereby the agency has some confidence in that retailer’s ability to comply with this rule but I don’t know how they’re going to enforce it,” he said.
Questions to the EPA were not returned by publication of this story.