The battle over E15 – that mix of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline – has apparently taken an unexpected turn.

Following months of discussion about the safety of E15, the biofuel went on sale at a gas station in Kansas last month. We heard that that station was requiring anyone buying E15 to purchase at least four gallons of the stuff so as to prevent the biofuel from getting into small tanks – lawnmowers, etc. – that are not supposed to burn E15. Turns out, this rule might be more expansive than we originally thought.

The American Motorcyclist Association has been in communication with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the use of blender pumps, which can dispense varying percentages of ethanol along with the gasoline (so, it can pump our E10 or E85, for example, as well as E15, depending). The AMA was looking for clarification because of "possible misfueling due to residual fuel left in a blender pump hose used to dispense 15 percent ethanol blend (E15) gasoline" because "our members who make a concerted effort to fuel their motorcycles or ATVs with E10-or-less gasoline may be unknowingly refueling with residual fuel left in the hose." The AMA's main question was: "What specifically does the EPA recommend that motorcyclists and ATV users do when using a blender pump that dispenses E15 gasoline?"

To which the EPA wrote back:

EPA requires that retail stations that own or operate blender pumps either dispense E15 from a dedicated hose and nozzle if able or, in the case of E15 and E10 being dispensed from the same hose, require that at least four gallons of fuel be purchased to prevent vehicles and engines with smaller fuel tanks from being exposed to gasoline-ethanol blended fuels containing greater than 10 vol% ethanol.

The stations must also inform customers about this minimum purchase requirement.

In other words, that four-gallon requirement is a nationwide rule, not just something that one station in Kansas implemented. What isn't clear is whether those blender pumps will never be able to dispense fewer than four gallons, no matter what the fuel type is. It sure reads like this is the case, but phone calls and emails to the EPA for more clarification were not returned. You can read the letters the AMA sent to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and the response here (1, 2) and see the AMA's press release below. If we hear back from the EPA, we will let you know.
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Federal officials mandating minimum four-gallon gasoline purchase from certain ethanol-blend pumps

PICKERINGTON, Ohio, Aug. 8, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will require all consumers to buy at least four gallons of gasoline from certain gas pumps after the new E15 ethanol-gasoline blend is introduced into the market, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.

The EPA revealed the requirement to the AMA in a letter dated Aug. 1, responding to AMA concerns that E15 -- a gasoline formulation that contains up to 15 percent ethanol by volume -- could be put in motorcycle and ATV gas tanks inadvertently when consumers use blender pumps. A blender pump dispenses different fuel blends through the same hose, and the vast majority of motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles in use today aren't designed to operate on E15 fuel.

"With E15 gasoline, our members who make a concerted effort to fuel their motorcycles or ATVs with E10-or-less gasoline may be unknowingly refueling with residual fuel left in the hose," Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations, wrote in a June 20 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

"Unlike an automobile or SUV that has a large fuel tank, the residual fuel left in a fueling hose could be detrimental to the performance of motorcycle or ATV engines due to the small size of their fuel tanks and the higher concentration of ethanol that would, therefore, be present in the fuel," Allard wrote.

"In addition, the use of E15 will lower fuel efficiency and possibly cause premature engine failure," he wrote. "Use of E15 fuel voids many manufacturer warranties. In off-road engines, the effects can even be dangerous for users."

Byron Bunker of the EPA National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory responded to the AMA on behalf of Jackson.

"EPA requires that retail stations that own or operate blender pumps either dispense E15 from a dedicated hose and nozzle if able or, in the case of E15 and E10 being dispensed from the same hose, require that at least four gallons of fuel be purchased to prevent vehicles and engines with smaller fuel tanks from being exposed to gasoline-ethanol blended fuels containing greater than 10 volume percent ethanol," Bunker wrote.

"Additionally, EPA is requiring that retail stations that offer E10 and E15 from the same hose and nozzle use additional labeling to inform consumers about the minimum purchase requirement," Bunker wrote.

"Since motorcyclists and ATV users, as you suggest, have relatively small fuel tanks, they should pay careful attention to the labeling of blender pumps to ensure that an appropriate fuel is chosen, in this case E10 or E0," he wrote.

Another problem with the new EPA policy, Allard said, is that not all motorcycle and ATV gas tanks hold four or more gallons.

"Not only do we find it unacceptable for the EPA to mandate that everyone -- including our members -- buy minimum amounts of gas, but the EPA answer simply won't work because of the sizes of many motorcycle and ATV gas tanks and the fact that off-highway riders take containers of gas with them on their trips, and most times those containers are much smaller than four gallons," Allard said.

"The EPA needs to come up with a better solution," he said. "The EPA also needs to back an independent study to determine whether E15 is safe for motorcycle and ATV engines."

The AMA has repeatedly expressed concerns to government officials and federal lawmakers about possible damage to motorcycle and ATV engines caused by the inadvertent use of E15 when the new fuel becomes widely available, and has asked that motorcycles and ATVs be part of any scientific study into the effects of E15.

Ethanol is essentially grain alcohol produced from crops such as corn that is mixed with gasoline to produce an ethanol-gasoline blend motor fuel. In October 2010, the EPA approved the use of E15 in model year 2007 and newer light-duty vehicles (cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles). Then, in January 2011, the EPA added model year 2001-06 light-duty vehicles to the approved list.

No motorcycles or ATVs are currently on the list.

About the American Motorcyclist Association

Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. As the world's largest motorcycling rights organization, the AMA advocates for motorcyclists' interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations, and the court of public opinion. Through member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. AMA members receive money-saving discounts from dozens of well-known suppliers of motorcycle services, gear and apparel, bike rental, transport, hotel stays and more. Through the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, the AMA honors the heroes and the heritage of motorcycling for future generations. For more information, please visit AmericanMotorcyclist.com.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 29 Comments
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      The American Motorcycle Association is taking the lead on this - they are very right to be concerned.
      throwback
      • 2 Years Ago
      Do we really need the federal government mandating what quantities of fuel we can buy?
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      Now *THIS* could be an issue.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think the whole situation with ethanol, corn subsidies, and increasing the amount of ethanol in our fuel is absurd and frankly, sucks. But did they ask me, or any of you what we thought of it? If it bugs you, then stop being such a loyal consumer and seek alternatives. Small engines are the easiest and cheapest to replace! the future situation with gasoline is not looking good anyway, so get ahead of the game. For one, you can walk into a wal mart or other similar store and buy a variety of electric lawn equipment that is quieter, easier and cheaper to operate, and can do the job better, too. For two, gas bicycles, motorcycles, golf karts, and other small gas engines under 500cc in displacement are rather cheap to swap out for electric drivetrains. And the low end torque of an electric motor with equivalent horsepower will put a stupid grin on your face the first time you hit the throttle. As batteries get better, gasoline is starting to lose out to electric technology. Motorized bikes and RC cars/aircraft have been taken over by electric tech almost entirely. Lawn equipment is starting to be taken over.. and electric scooters and motorcycles are starting to become more commonplace. Don't fear! you have a good alternative.. and that alternative kicks butt :)
        Marcopolo
        • 1 Day Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        @ 2 Wheeled Menace Well said ! The dependance on Oil is a 1000 lb Gorilla ! Tackling the beast head on, just doesn't work out all that well ! But sneaking around and stealing a banana here, and a banana there, is a very good method of starting to win ! Electric lawnmowers are not only cheaper to run, safer, better for the environment, and better on the lawn, but also much quieter ! These sort of humble little 'EV's' have been trundling along, neglected, and largely ignored, but keeping the EV industry alive for the past 80 years.
          EVnerdGene
          • 1 Day Ago
          @Marcopolo
          Hey Marco, I'm for free markets. We pay less for gasoline and diesel than most of the civilized world because our taxes on fuels are so low. If we factor in the cost of our Military patrolling shipping lanes, ports, pipelines, and refineries to get oil to market, then factor in the healthcare costs of breathing diesel exhaust and such; our fuel prices would be much higher. If much higher, there would be much fewer FUVs and sport trucks sold. Demand would go down, and our CAFE would go up - naturally. But our cowards in WDC wouldn't dare touch such a simple approach. They'd rather mandate, executive order, fiat, and dictate.
      Letstakeawalk
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yes, it is. According to the EPA, either the E15 is delivered from a dedicated pump, or, that the pump (if a blender pump) deliver a minimum of four gallons of "fuel". "What isn't clear is whether those blender pumps will never be able to dispense fewer than four gallons, no matter what the fuel type is. It sure reads like this is the case..." Presumably, buying a minimum of four gallons of E10 (or purer) gasoline will ensure that the portion of E15 remaining in the fuel dispenser hose will be adequately diluted.
      HVH20
      • 2 Years Ago
      I usually put less than 4 gallons in my gen 1 honda insight, anything extra is just dead weight and I'm find putting around for 300 miles on it like everyone else.
      Ryan
      • 2 Years Ago
      That is the stupidest regulation I've ever heard. How many people bring their lawnmower to a pump? You bring a 5 gallon jug to fill up. So, you will still be able to put it into your lawnmower or weed-wacker. I have bought 2 gallons of gas many times to cover personal travel in our work truck. Will the other 2 gallons just spill out onto the pavement then?
        Letstakeawalk
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Ryan
        I bring a one-gallon container. That lasts me more than a month in my lawn mower.
        carney373
        • 1 Day Ago
        @Ryan
        This isn't about making small engine buyers buy 4 gallons. It's about E15 buyers buying 4 gallons, to prevent the small engine buyer from getting any E15 in HIS engine.
      EVnerdGene
      • 2 Years Ago
      this is discrimination I can't put 4 gallons in my motorcycle I demand a senate investigation and reparations.
        Marcopolo
        • 1 Day Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        EVnerdGene Why stop there ? :)
        SloopJohnB
        • 1 Day Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        I guarantee you you can put less than 4 gallons from the pump...all you have to do is let go of the nozzle level. You only pay what's on the pump anyway.
      EVnerdGene
      • 2 Years Ago
      EPA - Washington fiddled while America burned
      Ryan
      • 2 Years Ago
      I think the EPA is trying to prevent the 99% of people who don't know what E15 vs E10 is from buying E15 for their small engines though. It isn't bout preventing E15 from accidentally getting in, it is for people who just push the 87 button or 85 if it is cheaper from putting less than 4 gallons of fuel into their lawnmower, etc. At least that is what I got from the story. Anyways, I kind of doubt it will catch on until it is mandated that every new car has to be able to handle it. And we come up with a better way to create it.
      Ryan
      • 2 Years Ago
      And I'm saying that it won't work. Most people don't haul their lawnmowers or snowblowers to the gas station to only put 1 or 2 gallons in. They bring 5 gallon containers which there is good regulation telling people to place it on the ground to fill.
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ryan, then it'll work fine. The hose probably contains a quart, so you'll get 3.75 gallons of what you wanted and 0.25 gallons of E15 you didn't want, the mix will be fine.
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