Feds to Allow More Ethanol in Gasoline

Fuel or Folly for Motorcycle Engines?

On Oct. 13, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed to allow the percentage of ethanol blended with gasoline to be increased from the current 10% levels to 15%, for certain vehicles -- specifically, cars and trucks built since 2007.

The EPA announced approval of a waiver for E15. Under the decision, E15 is now approved for use in model year 2007 and newer cars and light trucks. It isn't approved for use in any other gasoline-fueled engines.

The current allowable limit is 10%, and remains so for older vehicles and all motorcycles. But because the higher limits could pose a danger to motorcycles, many in the industry, including the AMA, are encouraging the government to wait-and-see before E15 is adopted nationwide. "The AMA supports the use of cleaner-burning fuels, but we are concerned that gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol could result in premature engine damage or failure while a motorcycle is ridden," said Imre Szauter, AMA government affairs manager. "We're also concerned about degradation in fuel economy and rideability that may result from the long-term use of blended fuels with greater than 10 percent ethanol."

Part of the concern stems from the fact that there is potential for confusion at the gas pump - buyers might have to choose from octane ratings as well as E-10 and E-15 at some stations. "Motorcycle manufacturers certify their machines to run on gasoline or a blend with up to 10 percent ethanol, known as E10," Szauter said. "Using the 15 percent blend could void the bike's warranty."

An ethanol lobbying group asked the EPA in March 2009 to allow more ethanol to be blended with gasoline, partly to meet a congressional mandate to increase the amount of renewable fuel available in the United States by 2022 (ethanol is made from corn, and is considered a renewable fuel).

For more than three years the AMA has opposed increases in the ethanol level in gasoline until studies show that an increase won't damage motorcycle or ATV engines, and won't make motorcycles emit more nitrogen oxides than are allowed by the EPA. The EPA said a decision on the use of E15 in model year 2001 - 2006 vehicles will be made after new test results are received. The EPA is also proposing pump labeling requirements so consumers don't mistakenly put E15 in the wrong vehicles.

In some parts of the country, a mutiny is growing against energy policies that support the blending of ethyl alcohol (ethanol) into gasoline. Though common in the Midwest for at least a decade, ethanol-gas blends —sometimes called gasohol — only recently arrived on the coasts and in many Southern states.

Gallon for gallon, pure ethanol contains one-third less energy than gasoline, and the ethanol industry acknowledges that E10 reduces mileage by about 2 percent. Others have said that ethanol burns hotter than gasoline, thus causing catalytic converters to break down faster.

For the full EPA news release, go to

For a list of ethanol-free gas stations in the U.S. and Canada, check out: www.pure-gas.org

For more information on the AMA, see: www.ama-cycle.org

Culled from AP, AMA and NY Times reports.