PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Motorcyclists and federal lawmakers spoke out about their concerns over E15 fuel in a rally at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, June 19. The riders gathered to urge their senators and representatives to call for independent testing of the E15 ethanol fuel blend in motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle engines before it is allowed for sale at retail gas stations.
The riders attending the American Motorcyclist Association's "E15: Fuel for Thought" event represented the millions of Americans who are fearful about the high potential for inadvertent misfueling with E15 and the subsequent engine damage that could occur in their motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle engines.
Several U.S. representatives joined the AMA in questioning the EPA's decision to allow the sale of E15, calling it "not good to put in anyone's gas tank," "a disaster in the making" and "bad policy."
"When you have a type of fuel that, if inadvertently used, has the potential to damage engines and fuel systems and void a manufacturer's new-vehicle warranty, you really should move with caution when it comes to putting that fuel in the marketplace," said AMA Board Chairman Maggie McNally. "Issuing rules that allow the sale of E15 at gas stations without adequate testing to be sure it's safe in motorcycles and ATVs, not to mention engines in boats and power equipment, just isn't wise. We're here today to deliver that message to our legislators, so that the right safeguards can be put in place."
E15 is a gasoline formulation that contains up to 15 percent ethanol by volume, a higher percentage of ethanol than in E10 fuel blends now on sale. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved E15 for use in 2001-and-newer light-duty vehicles, which includes cars, light trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles, none of the estimated 22 million motorcycles and ATVs currently in use are on the EPA approved list, and no manufacturer has approved E15 for use in its motorcycles or ATVs.
The AMA has repeatedly expressed concerns to government officials and federal lawmakers about possible damage to motorcycles and ATVs from the inadvertent use of E15, which is now becoming available at gas stations. That could easily occur if a rider selects E15 on a fuel blender pump thinking it is E10 or E0 (no ethanol) fuel. Many riders are also concerned about misfueling with E15 leftover in the pump hose from a previous user.
The EPA is merely telling alarmed consumers not to use E15, downplaying the possibility of inadvertent misfueling. Proponents of E15 go a step further, noting that the EPA has specifically prohibited its use in motorcycles and other small engines and stating that it would be illegal for motorcyclists to use E15.
"Telling motorcyclists that E15 use is illegal completely misses the point, because motorcyclists don't want to use it in the first place unless independent testing confirms it is safe," said AMA Vice President for Government Relations Wayne Allard. "One of our concerns has always been that we might unintentionally put E15 in our tanks, due to confusing implementation of the EPA's misfueling mitigation plan."
The AMA E15: Fuel for Thought event began with a motorcycle ride around the U.S. Capitol, followed by a rally with numerous federal lawmakers speaking. Participants then visited their congressional delegations' offices to ask for support for legislation that calls for independent research into the effects of E15 fuel on motorcycles and ATVs.
Lawmakers speaking at the rally included: U.S. Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Chris Stewart (R-Utah), Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), Bill Posey (R-Fla.) and Tom Petri (R-Wis.).
Sensenbrenner noted that the EPA simply is not listening when it comes to E15 fuel.
"When they started going on this push for E15, I sent out a letter to all the auto manufacturers, and every last one of them said that using E15 in automobiles manufactured after 2001 would wreck the engines and void the warranties," Sensenbrenner said. "They didn't listen to that. So an EPA mandate [for E15] would mean that a lot of people would end up having very expensive repairs that are not covered by the warranty.
"Corn with a lot of butter is really good to eat," Sensenbrenner added. "But what is good to eat is not good to put in anybody's gas tank."
The risk is just too great for E15 fuel to be sold at the pump, said Stewart.
"The federal government does silly things from time to time, and this is one of them," Stewart said. "You have these beautiful machines out here, and if you put one of these blends in there, you're going to burn up those engines, and the manufacturers won't honor the warranty. It's just not a good idea to have this blend... We're going to challenge the EPA, and I think we're going to have some success."
Griffin noted that E15 isn't fully tested, and should be, before it is allowed to be sold.
"E15 is a disaster in the making," Griffin said. "The research isn't done on whether it's safe. Ethanol is just bad for engines generally, and to take it to E15, which puts at risk a bunch of equipment, as well as your motors, it's just ridiculous."
Valadao said it was important for people to speak out on the issue.
"It's just bad policy in general," Valadao said. "For me to be a part of this, and to have the opportunity to support you, it's an honor, because it's an issue I feel deeply about. You stepping up here means a lot."
Posey agreed that E15 will cause issues for vehicle owners.
"There are three things you need to know about E15: It's bad. It's bad. And it's bad," Posey said. "We all know what it can do to cars. We know what it does to bikes. We know what it does to racecars. We know what it does to motorboats. We know what it does to lawnmowers. It's not good for anything."
Petri noted that several manufacturers had told him of the potential dangers of E15.
"E15 will cause big problems," Petri said. "I say this as someone who comes from a corn-producing state. But we also make Harley-Davidsons in our part of the world. We make Mercury outboard motors in our part of the world. We make an awful lot of small engines for Briggs & Stratton. And the manufacturers of all this equipment tell me [E15] will not work. It will cause a lot of problems, and involve unnecessary expense."
A number of AMA members who rode their motorcycles to Washington, D.C., from points near and far took time to lobby legislators for testing of E15 fuels. The riders were assisted in making their visits to their elected representatives by members of the AMA's Washington, D.C.-based staff.
In addition to the beautiful weather that greeted riders were dozens of members from the Antique Automobile Club of America, who parked classic cars alongside motorcycles on the National Mall. Tom Cox, AACA national president, spoke to the motorcyclists in the audience, telling them that E15 is a serious concern for their members, as well as thanking the AMA for organizing the event.
The AMA's Allard observed that the AMA E15: Fuel For Thought lobby day was a success in raising the visibility of the serious concerns related to E15 fuel.
"The bottom line here is simple," Allard said. "There's no proof for motorcyclists that E15 is safe, and given the realities of the marketplace, anywhere it is sold, there will likely be inadvertent misfueling problems, which could lead to expensive repairs and also void a new vehicle's warranty.
"That means the loser in all of this is the riders," Allard said. "The AMA stands behind not only its member motorcyclists, but all riders, in calling for more extensive testing of E15, and more thorough misfueling safeguards."
For more on the E15 issue, see www.americanmotorcyclist.com/rights/amafuelforthought.aspx.
Supporters of the lobby day include EagleRider of Falls Church, Va.; Coleman PowerSports of Falls Church, Va., and Woodbridge, Va.; the National Turkey Federation; National Chicken Council; National Pork Producers Council; American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers; Specialty Equipment Market Association; and the Antique Automobile Club of America.