Missed Messages

Critics incorrectly blame ethanol industry.
By Holly Jessen | February 15, 2011

Sometimes the comments section for U.S. EPA rulings makes for entertaining reading. In its comments to the EPA about the proposed E15 label, the National Marine Manufacturers Association made quite a claim. NMMA accused Growth Energy of misleading boaters at its website, DrivingEthanol.org. Now, although the website in question specifically speaks about E10 and not E15, NMMA claimed that Growth Energy was suggesting compatibility of E15 in marine equipment by including a photo of a boat. Growth Energy, in its comments called the claim inaccurate and said the website in question makes “no reference to use of E15 and expressly instructs the public to check manufacturer’s specifications regarding use of E10 in marine applications.”

In addition, NMMA argues that an E15 pump label is not enough to safeguard against misfueling. One extremely restrictive option it suggested was requiring a cashier lockout for mid-level blends, requiring cashiers to only unlock an E15 pump for consumers with approved equipment. Other options NMMA suggested included radio frequency identification technology on vehicles and fuel pumps, electronic key pad confirmation or segregated pumps—none of which were instituted when the U.S. went from leaded to unleaded fuel.

NMMA isn’t the only group singing a negative song. All the buzz about misfueling is “manufactured hysteria,” says Matt Hartwig, communications director for the Renewable Fuels Association. Brazil starts with a minimum of 25 percent of ethanol in each gallon of gas and the fuel is regularly used to fuel engines in boats, lawnmowers and weed whackers. “This isn’t a huge technological leap.”

Regardless, the RFA, Growth Energy and other industry groups aren’t suggesting E15 be used anywhere but in the vehicles approved by EPA. It clearly applies to cars, pickups and SUVs only for model year 2001 and newer. “Remember, this isn’t a mandate,” Hartwig adds. “It simply allows ethanol blends up to E15 to be sold with proper labeling to the approved consumer groups.” 

—Holly Jessen