AMA Action Alert: Federal agency seeks comments on ethanol-blended fuel

The Renewable Fuel Standard proposal announced July 5 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows a slight reduction from the 2017 obligations but does not reflect the agency’s promise to listen to motorcyclists, who have registered a low demand for higher ethanol blends.

The EPA should lower the 2018 volumes even further than proposed when the final rule is issued this year. The current proposed volumes, even though they are 1 percent lower than the 2017 volumes, would still greatly increase the risk of inadvertent misfueling for motorcyclists and all-terrain vehicle owners by continuing the increased availability of higher-ethanol fuel blends that are unsafe for these vehicles, such as E15 (15 percent ethanol by volume).

Act now by submitting comments to voice your concern. The deadline is Aug. 31.

The EPA’s proposed Renewable Volume Obligations call for 19.24 billion gallons of biofuel for 2018, down from 19.28 billion gallons this year.

Of the 19.24 billion gallons of biofuels proposed for 2018, 15 billion gallons would be conventional renewables, primarily corn ethanol, with lesser amounts of conventional biodiesel and renewable diesel.

What is jeopardized by the proposed rule is consumer choice at the fuel pump. Pressure from the ethanol industry to distribute more high-ethanol fuels, like E15, endangers the ready availability of E10 and threatens to eliminate E0 altogether, the only fuel recommended for older and vintage motorcycles.

Per the proposed rule, “When estimating per gallon costs, we consider the costs of ethanol on an energy equivalent basis to gasoline (i.e., per energy equivalent gallon), since more ethanol gallons must be consumed to go the same distance as gasoline due to the ethanol’s lower energy content.”

Many consumers want E0 for their motorcycles, ATVs, boats, lawn mowers and other equipment, because it does not pose the risk of alcohol-related engine and fuel system damage. The proposed rule does not mention these types of vehicles or small engines whatsoever. It mentions only marine recreationists as users of E0. Yet, the renewable fuels requirements have marginalized E0 in favor of E10 or higher blends.

Moreover, the EPA acknowledges the amount of E0 sales originally was estimated to be about 200 million gallons. The revised numbers place the figure at about 500 million gallons.

Also important, the proposed rule mentions the likelihood of misfueling with higher ethanol blends only once. In the 2017 rule, it was never mentioned. This is the same misfueling mitigation plan that initially mandated an ill-conceived four-gallon minimum fuel purchase to address the concerns raised by the AMA. It is still easily misunderstood, misapplied or ignored by state governments and retail operators.

Fuels with higher ethanol content must adhere to federal labeling rules. Pump labeling is confusing at best, yet extremely important to protect against inadvertent misfueling. Some retailers conflate the EPA-approved E15 label with the Federal Trade Commission-approved label. (There is only one approved label for E15.) One unapproved label being used incorrectly refers to E15 as a “Flex Fuel.” This label circumvents the Reid Vapor Pressure restrictions that prohibit the sale of E15 fuel in certain parts of the country during the summer months.

The draft proposal fails to mention the Misfueling Mitigation Plan or problems with blender pump labeling.

The EPA opened a comment period to allow the public to voice its opinion on the proposed rule. And the AMA has the tools to make it easy for you to submit comments.

There is nothing more powerful than tens of thousands of riders joining together to express their concern with unsafe fuel for their machines.

The AMA has set up an easy mechanism for people to be able to comment.

Legislative action Alert

Attention all hands:  The lane sharing bill (SB 5378) has been pulled to the floor calendar and made eligible for a floor vote.  At the request of Prime Sponsor Senator Sheldon, we need to get on the phones and make the switchboard light up.  Every senator needs to hear from constituents urging the quick passage of this bill.

If you still don’t know who your senator is (a pox upon you) hit this link.

Now, let’s start those phones ringing.

Until next time,

Ride safely and legislate well,

“Texas” Larry

Government Relations

Legislative Update 1-30-2017

There are two bills scheduled for hearings today, a helmet reform bill and a bill addressing lane sharing.

SB 5156 Motorcycle Helmet Use:  This bill allows for adult freedom of choice for people 18 years old and older.  The underlying language has a provision that requires mandatory liability insurance for any person opting to ride without a helmet, which is an interesting twist to the perennial issue.  While the Washington Road Riders Association would not advise that riders not utilize quality safety equipment, we believe that motorcycle helmet usage, as with all safety gear, is a personal choice that should be left up to the individual.  Helmet mandates are a flawed tact, operating under the concept of “safer crashing” as opposed to the superior tact of more qualified motorcycle operation.

SB 5378 Modifying the operation of motorcycles on roadways laned for traffic:  This bill presents the same language that passed out of the Senate in 2015, which moves motorcycles to the left of the left most traffic on multi-lane (two or more each way) numbered state routes.  While the underlying language is not a viable option to most riders, what does exist is a legislative vehicle to further the issue of lane sharing/splitting.  The language can, and should, be amended to allow proper lane sharing.  It will be proposed today that the committee amend the language to match the language of Rep. MacEwen’s HB 1157 which allows for operation between lanes of traffic, not to exceed 35 mph total or 10 mph above the speed of traffic.

Lane Sharing Talking Points:

Accidents will not increase.
By moving between lanes the need to scan the rear 180 degrees of area is eliminated, and the need to side scan is lessened, allowing the rider to concentrate forwards, locating potential conflicts well in advance.
Maximum speed differential between bikes and autos will be 10 MPH (15 FPS) allowing a 2-3 car length minimum distance for rider reaction.
Injuries will not increase.
A study done by UC Berkley indicated that the optimum speed differential between a motorcycle splitting lanes and the surrounding traffic should be in the 10 MPH range. With the 10 MPH (15 FPS) speed differential any collisions that might occur will be more as a bump or brush than the catastrophic collisions that could occur at greater differential speeds incident with a rear end collision.
Vehicles will not change lanes into motorcycles.
With the 2-3 (minimum) car length advance scan available riders will see the potential lane change situation developing well enough in advance to mitigate the hazard. Any spot opening up in a lane that will allow a vehicle to change lanes will be spotted by the rider as it opens up so that they can respond appropriately.
As an overtaking vehicle, a motorcycle will still bear the responsibility incumbent with being an overtaking vehicle.
Enforcement will not be any more difficult than with the current statute.
Enforcement could even be easier, as an officer could make the discretionary call that lane sharing/splitting is being done in a safe and sane manner, therefore no enforcement pursuit is necessary.
High speed lane splitting (illegal under current and potential statutes) will continue to be problematic for pursuit and apprehension.

Comments can be submitted on line by following these links.  SB 5156    SB 5378 

If you don’t know yet who your representatives are (for shame), follow this link. 

Until next time,

Ride safely and legislate well,

“Texas” Larry

Government Relations

Black Thursday 2017

It’s that time of the year again, when the motorcycling community comes to Olympia to meet with their legislators to discuss motorcycling issues. The annual “Black Thursday” event, hosted by ABATE of Washington and the Confederation of Clubs, will be on Thursday January 19th.

The active issues for this year:

Adult freedom of choice for helmet usage: As always, ABATE of WA will be bringing forward legislation to restore freedom of choice in helmet usage for adult riders. I have yet to see the final language, but I do not seriously expect any major changes to the proposed legislation.  While the Washington Road Riders Association does not advocate that riders eschew riding with quality protective gear, the WRRA firmly believes that that decision should lie with the rider, not the government and supports ABATE in their efforts. For more information contact Brian Lange of ABATE.

Lane Sharing/Splitting:  There will be a proposal offered to allow lane sharing/splitting in various targeted areas around the state.  A final draft has yet to be introduced, but I know for a certain fact that the issue will be getting some sort of legislative attention.  All riders should contact their Senator and both of their Representatives to support the spirit of this legislation. (See the talking points below)

Lane Sharing Talking Points:

Accidents will not increase.
By moving between lanes the need to scan the rear 180 degrees of area is eliminated, and the need to side scan is lessened, allowing the rider to concentrate forwards, locating potential conflicts well in advance.
Maximum speed differential between bikes and autos will be 10 MPH (15 FPS) allowing a 2-3 car length minimum distance for rider reaction.
Injuries will not increase.
A study done by UC Berkley indicated that the optimum speed differential between a motorcycle splitting lanes and the surrounding traffic should be in the 10 MPH range.  With the 10 MPH (15 FPS) speed differential any collisions that might occur will be more as a bump or brush than the catastrophic collisions that could occur at greater differential speeds incident with a rear end collision.
Vehicles will not change lanes into motorcycles.
With the 2-3 (minimum) car length advance scan available riders will see the potential lane change situation developing well enough in advance to mitigate the hazard. Any spot opening up in a lane that will allow a vehicle to change lanes will be spotted by the rider as it opens up so that they can respond appropriately.
As an overtaking vehicle, a motorcycle will still bear the responsibility incumbent with being an overtaking vehicle.
Enforcement will not be any more difficult than with the current statute.
Enforcement could even be easier, as an officer could make the discretionary call that lane sharing/splitting is being done in a safe and sane manner, therefore no enforcement pursuit is necessary.
High speed lane splitting (illegal under current and potential statutes) will continue to be problematic for pursuit and apprehension.

The Washington Motorcycle Safety Program:  Many top training personnel from around the state have contacted me and expressed their concerns about the overall health of the program, as well as the immediate and long term future thereof. Over the past few years, the management of the motorcycle safety program that the riders of this state finance by their endorsement fees has seen an alarming shift from an open program dedicated to meeting the needs of riders for quality training to a more traditional, and at times entrenched, operation, more interested in bureaucratic accuracy than quality training.  It has also seen an exodus  of the top technicians of the program, dedicated people with years of riding and training experience who have decided to move out of the agency to concentrate on training.  I cannot help but believe that part of the problem is the fact that the current, although temporary, program manager, as well as the permanent manager have absolutely zero background with motorcycles in general, therefore no real, down to earth vision of what it actually takes to train novice and experienced motorcyclists.  While there is no immediate plans to offer any legislation, I think it is absolutely necessary that the Legislature hears the concerns of the riding community.

I’m quite sure that there is some issue that will ring with any rider, so it would be time well spent to get yourself to Olympia and make your voice known.

If you don’t know yet who your representatives are, follow this link.

Until next time,

Ride safely and legislate well,

“Texas” Larry

Government Relations