Motorcyclists joined with federal lawmakers to speak out about 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 allowing it 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 engines.
"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, 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 formulation that contains up to 15 percent ethanol by volume -- more than the 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, 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 at gas stations. It's easy to make the mistake at the fuel blender pump, and pump E15 thinking it's E10 or E0 (no ethanol) fuel. There's also concern about misfueling with E15 leftover in the pump hose from a previous user.
The EPA continues to tell alarmed consumers not to use E15, downplaying the possibility of 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," said AMA Vice President for Government Relations Wayne Allard.
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 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 end up having very expensive repairs that are not covered by the warranty.
Tim 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."
Tom Petri, the Wisconsin Representative, 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."
Helping the cause 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.