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.

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