Some of the largest retailers in the US are trying to inject either a little good sense or paranoia into part of their customer base. Lowe's, Walmart and True Value are putting out written warnings about the dangers of filling up non-light-duty-vehicle engines with fuel that contains a higher ethanol blend. It's all part of a campaign backed by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), which represents 100 small-engine, utility vehicle and outdoor power equipment makers.
OPEI's campaign, titled "Look Before You Pump," will include signage in "thousands" of retail stores starting this spring and will let customers know that it can be "harmful" to use a blend with a higher ethanol content than the typical 10 percent blend. Owners of boats, motorcycles and snowmobiles will be given the heads-up about what OPEI calls the "corrosive and problematic" of 15-percent ethanol blends (i.e., E15) and higher-percentage mixes.

The move is the latest action in the long-running debate over the safety of higher ethanol blends. Late last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for the first time ever, suggested reducing the minimum ethanol requirement in the annual US fuel supply. And while that was a result of not enough ethanol being produced to meet an increase in the ethanol mandate, the topic of increasing the production and use of higher ethanol blends has long been controversial as automakers, small-engine makers and Big Oil have contested that such blends will damage engines. Proponents of more ethanol use say the corn-based fuel cuts foreign-oil dependency and may be better for the environment. Check out OPEI's press release below.



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Lowe's, Walmart and True Value Retailers Bring 'Look Before You Pump' Ethanol Message Direct to Consumers

--OPEI's consumer protection campaign hitting major retailer store aisles, catalogs and circulars this spring; independent dealers continue support of industry educational program--

Alexandria, Va., February 20, 2014-As consumers head to retail stores this spring to purchase mowers, chain saws, generators, blowers, trimmers, power washers, and a host of other small engine equipment, they will see an important ethanol fuel message from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), an international trade association representing 100 small engine, utility vehicle and outdoor power equipment manufacturers and suppliers. The message to 'Look Before You Pump' will help consumers protect their outdoor power and small engine equipment investments.

In thousands of retail store aisles across the country and in spring preview circulars and catalogs, consumers will be reminded that it is harmful and illegal to use higher than 10 percent ethanol gas in any outdoor power equipment or other non-road product, such as boats, snowmobiles and motorcycles, with the exception of "flex-fuel" engine products. Independent dealers began using the 'Look Before You Pump' message in their stores in fall 2013.

Lowe's and Walmart are supporting the educational program through in-store signage and circulars, and True Value Hardware will highlight the program on the back cover of its spring outdoor power catalog.

Additionally, Scripps Networks Interactive's DIY Network is supporting the program through social media promotion, custom research and in-show messaging.

Known by its emblematic prominent, red warning hand symbol indicating 'OK' for 10 percent ethanol and 'No' for mid-level ethanol blends (such as E15, E30, E85), the 'Look Before You Pump' campaign is spreading nationwide as ethanol blended fuels containing more than 10 percent ethanol are made available in the marketplace for "flex-fuel" automobiles.

"OPEI's 'Look Before You Pump' campaign is designed to protect consumers' equipment investment by educating them on using the right fuel for the right product," said Michael Jones chief merchandising officer at Lowe's. "The campaign offers a simple yet effective way to inform customers about the adverse impact of higher than 10 percent ethanol fuel blends on outdoor power equipment for which it is not designed."

According to senior vice president and chief merchandising officer at True Value Company, Ken Goodgame, "OPEI's 'Look Before You Pump' campaign is exactly what our stores need to meet the challenges posed by higher ethanol fuel blends. We used to see about a 70 percent fuel related failure rate, but now with E10 and E15, we find that up to 80 percent of all portable and four-stroke OPE failures that come back in our stores are related to fuel, so we recommend customers use a fuel stabilizer. Ethanol has proven to be a corrosive and problematic fuel additive, and we are keen to share the 'Look Before You Pump' warning with our customers."

According to Todd Teske, chairman, president and CEO of Briggs & Stratton Corporation, the world's largest manufacturer of small engines, and OPEI's board chair, "It is critical that we educate all users of outdoor power equipment about the dangers misfueling can cause to their equipment. Our number one goal is to protect our customers, and the more we can get this information in front of them, the better off they will be."

"We've been very pleased with the level of support for 'Look Before You Pump' from retailers and dealers who sell small engine and outdoor power equipment. They understand the importance of cautioning American consumers and the business owners whose livelihood depends on our equipment to be more mindful at the gas pump. It's imperative that the consumer is educated about the changing fuels marketplace and getting the right fuel for the right product," said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI.

OPEI urges consumers to read their equipment operating manual before filling equipment with gasoline to ensure they use the right fuel for that engine. For more information, visit www.LookBeforeYouPump.com and search for #LookB4UPump on Twitter and Facebook.

Recent research shows high-ethanol blends of gasoline can damage or destroy small engines not designed to handle it. A summer 2013 OPEI/Harris Interactive study shows the vast majority of Americans (71 percent) are "not at all sure" if it is illegal or legal to put high level ethanol gas (i.e., anything higher than 10 percent ethanol) into engines such as those in boats, mowers, chain saws, snow mobiles, generators and other engine products.

About OPEI

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) is an international trade association representing 100 small engine, utility vehicle and outdoor power equipment manufacturers and suppliers of consumer and commercial outdoor power equipment. The OPEI Education Foundation is the creative force behind TurfMutt.com. OPEI is a recognized Standards Development Organization for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and active internationally through the International Standards Organization (ISO) in the development of safety and performance standards. OPEI is managing partner of
GIE+EXPO, the industry's annual industry tradeshow. For more information, visit www.OPEI.org.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 12 Comments
      EVnerdGene
      • 2 Days Ago
      Elementary logic 101: If 15% ethanol is corrosive; then so is 10%.
        Thunderbuck
        • 2 Days Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        It isn't just corrosion. It's also a matter of the engine's ability to adjust the timing. All cars sold in North America for over a decade have been built to tolerate 10% Ethanol. Anything that goes further needs different materials and tweaks to the engine computer.
          Matt
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Thunderbuck
          I know of a few cars from the last decade that specifically state no ethanol blended gas and these aren't sports cars. You're right about it not being just corrosion, it's also mileage. My car can crack 30s for MPG with plain gas but when I get blended gas it manages mid 20s. I'll pay the extra 20 cents for no ethanol in my gas in exchange for another 5-6 mpg.
          raktmn
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Thunderbuck
          Matt -- All gas cars sold in the United States have been E10 certified by the manufacturers since 1985. You may be referring to cars sold overseas, but there has not been a car sold in the US for nearly 30 years that wasn't designed to run on E10.
        raktmn
        • 2 Days Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        Gasoline is also a corrosive.
        Ryan
        • 2 Days Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        It is also 5% less in revenue going to the oil companies...
      jsongster
      • 2 Days Ago
      If the goal is to eliminate dirtier fuels... and foreign imported fuels... minimize ugly foreign entanglements... then we need to move towards more not less flex fuel vehicles like Brazil has. I agree with warning folks to avoid fuels that would damage engines... but this campaign sure seems like a big oil argument. I regularly use E85 in my F150 and have seen no ill effects in thousands of miles traveled. Seems that all gasoline fueled cars should be made as flex fuel adapted... and all diesels should be made to also run biodiesel as well as dino diesel. We need to wean the country off foreign oil and crazy religious wars. Ethanol based fuels are a good way to do that. Many other products will also help.
        Matt
        • 2 Days Ago
        @jsongster
        No **** your flex fuel F-150 has no problems it was designed for it, but what about the millions of people driving older vehicles that aren't flex fuel vehicles? I have no problem with E-85, granted I only use it for race fuel because its cheaper cost doesn't offset the decrease in MPG and extra fuel needed so it doesn't warrant use for daily driving. It's the ethanol blends that can be done away with. I'd rather not risk my fuel system or engine, or my lawn equipment, or my recreational vehicles by having to use E10 or E15. I'd also like the price of corn to go down since that affects more than the fuel prices. Brazil has so much ethanol because they make it from sugar cane which they have so much of they don't know what to do with it all. I agree that ethanol based fuels is a good idea but not from corn and not for blending. Give me E0 gas and E85 gas, not most gas being a blend of E5, E10, or E15 and having to really try to find a place with plain gas. But if you think all vehicles should be retrofitted to flex fuel capable you can pay for those modifications to my car because it isn't easy. Setting up a car to run E85 is pretty simple, but getting a flex fuel sensor to work with a factory ECU that wasn't designed for one? Damn near impossible and a standalone ECU will be an expensive purchase and an even bigger chuck of change to get it to drive as well as the factory tune. To set that all up would be close to the price of a cheap used flex fuel vehicle. Also, all diesels can run biodiesel, no modifications needed there.
          atc98092
          • 2 Days Ago
          @Matt
          "Also, all diesels can run biodiesel, no modifications needed there." Nope, not the case there. At least not B100. Most modern diesel cars (let's say 2008 and later) are specified from the factory as no greater than B5. There are some HD pickups that are good for B20, and VW allows B20 in IL with more frequent oil changes (IL has a higher BioD mandate than other states). For diesels prior to 2008, it is hit or miss with BioD, but in general it's OK. Go back into the 90s and older, then there's no issue at all. For a modern diesel to run B100, it would need special sensors to detect the fuel type (not unlike flex fuel gas engines) and modifications to the ECU tuning, specifically dealing with emission control. With proper tuning, a diesel running B100 would be far cleaner than the current "clean diesel" and even pass most gas engines. The only issue is NOx, which can be controlled.
        Greg
        • 2 Days Ago
        @jsongster
        I disagree. We don't need to design vehicles to work on either fuel (flex fuel). Rather, if we are going to use ethanol as a fuel, we need engines specifically designed to run on it only and not on gasoline. An ethanol-specific engine can have a higher compression ratio which would enable it to be more efficient and make up for the lack of energy content in ethanol compared to gasoline. For example, have the machinery & equipment used in corn-growing country run on the ethanol produced there. (Then, you don't have to worry about transporting the ethanol since it can't go in the same pipelines as gas & diesel.)
      goodoldgorr
      • 2 Days Ago
      Please stop food ethanol in gasoline engines and start to produce and sell gasoline made with natural gas in GTL process like Sasol do abroad.
      raktmn
      • 2 Days Ago
      The more information for consumers, the better. This seems like the least controversial thing ever posted on ABG regarding ethanol fuels.