Thanks to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there's a new threat facing motorcyclists nationwide, and possibly all Americans. The danger is posed by a certain blend of motor vehicle fuel called E15, which may damage the engines of motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, boats and powered equipment.
On Wednesday, the American Motorcyclist Association will host "AMA E15: Fuel for Thought" in Washington, D.C. Motorcyclists will ride around the Capitol, rally on the Mall and lobby their federal lawmakers to secure independent scientific research into the effects of E15.
E15 is a fuel blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline that the EPA has approved for use in 2001 and later light-duty vehicles, which include cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles. The blend isn't approved for use in any motorcycle, ATV, boat or other small engine, and may even damage them and void warranties.
The EPA is merely telling alarmed consumers not to use E15.
Since 2011, the American Motorcyclist Association has repeatedly expressed concerns to government officials and federal lawmakers about possible damage to the estimated 22 million motorcycles and ATVs currently in use by the inadvertent use of E15, which is now becoming available at gas stations. That could easily occur even if a rider selects a fuel grade other than E15 on a fuel blender pump and receives E15 leftover in the hose from a previous user.
Furthermore, results released by the Coordinating Research Council reveal that E15 would damage millions of post-2001 model-year vehicles even though the EPA has approved the use of E15 in those vehicles. The study concluded that E15 would result in fuel-system failures in cars and other approved vehicles.
The association wants motorcycles and ATVs to be part of a scientific study on the effects of E15 so that riders know what to expect if they inadvertently put E15 in their gas tanks, or if E15 is eventually approved for motorcycle and ATV use. Not only should the study focus on the short- and long-term impacts on vehicles and engines, it should also quantify the financial toll that increased ethanol in gasoline will levy on consumers, dealers and service facilities, vehicle and engine manufacturers, fuel retailers, distributors and producers, and the environment.
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, has introduced a bill, H.R. 875, to require the EPA to stop the use of E15 fuel until it has been studied further. Mr. Sensenbrenner has said there have been several tests highlighting E15's harmful effects on engines, but the EPA has dismissed them all. Because of that, he thinks "we must force the EPA to stop the use of E15 fuel until the serious safety, durability, performance and environmental concerns have been addressed. We have a responsibility to ensure that Americans using gas-powered machinery — whether it be cars and boats or chain saws and lawn mowers — are not put at risk due to faulty fuel that has not been vetted."
H.R. 875 would repeal the EPA's waiver decision approving the use of E15 and would bar the agency from granting further decisions on the use of the fuel until it obtains an independent scientific analysis of the effects of the E15 blend.
Meanwhile, Republican Sens. Roger F. Wicker of Mississippi and David Vitter of Louisiana have introduced legislation to overturn the EPA waivers that allow E15 to be used in many passenger cars and light trucks and would prohibit the EPA from granting any waiver for a blend above 10 percent ethanol. The senators say the higher blend of ethanol has been found to cause engine damage, reduce fuel efficiency, and contribute to higher corn prices and rising food costs for American consumers.
The American Motorcyclist Association supports both the House and Senate bills.
All Americans deserve to know whether E15 is safe for their vehicles. On Wednesday, American motorcyclists will be demonstrating on Capitol Hill to demand answers. Congress needs to take decisive action now to protect consumers, their engines and their wallets.
Wayne Allard is a former U.S. senator and representative from Colorado who is now vice president for government relations at the American Motorcyclist Association.