The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) has serious concerns with a premature rush to 15% ethanol (E15) or other mid-level fuel blends as being suggested by pro-ethanol producers. Without a formal waiver process through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and a continued misinterpretation of test results from a recent Department of Energy (DOE) report, OPEI says that introducing E15 and higher fuels to the marketplace for existing equipment pose serious risks to American consumers and businesses.
The DOE report, in fact, indicates that mid-level ethanol fuels could damage millions of forestry, lawn and garden, and other small engine products currently housed in consumers’ garages, boat slips, warehouses or being used by small businesses, OPEI says. "Higher ethanol blends can cause performance irregularities and pose substantial safety and environmental hazards," it notes.
"The fact is that the use of E15 and higher levels of ethanol is a complex issue, and it can’t be rushed by efforts that overlook the impacts on consumer safety and economic interests," says Kris Kiser, executive vice president at OPEI. "OPEI fully supports congressional efforts to increase the use of cellulosic fuels. We can design products to run on higher levels of ethanol."
But, Kiser points out that existing small-engine equipment will likely experience performance irregularities and possible failure. Therefore, Kiser says that the public’s awareness, education and safety should be at the forefront of any discussion of introducing new cellulosic fuel blends.
Adds Kiser, "We need to acknowledge that current equipment -- including boats, chainsaws, lawn mowers, snow mobiles, motorcycles, generators and other small engine equipment -- may be permanently damaged and pose a safety risk if E15 fuel is used. Current equipment is neither designed, built or warrantied for mid-level blends."
OPEI will submit a letter to the EPA and DOE urging both agencies to utilize the existing formal waiver process. The process will provide studies and data to fully understand effects of introducing new fuel types into the marketplace. The studies also will provide information necessary to educate consumers about the use of mid-level ethanol fuels on existing and future products.
"OPEI is not anti-ethanol," insists Kiser. "We support congressional efforts to get the U.S. off foreign sources of oil. But, we will not put people’s safety at risk in the process."
Kiser agrees that given adequate lead-time, outdoor power equipment manufacturers can and will build future products to run on higher than E10, but says "we can’t put our customers safety and the economic environment at risk by putting higher blends into current equipment that simply aren’t built to run under those conditions."
Kiser also expressed concern that "current equipment on the market is designed to run on E0 to E10 fuel in order to meet EPA emissions and evaporative requirements. Changing the legal fuel may change the emissions profile, making it non-compliant."
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