I read with interest the story about Maine eyeing to ban fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in the Jan. 11 article “ Maine DEP working on plan to ban gas blends with more than 10 percent ethanol.”
Hats off to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and hopefully Maine lawmakers in their quest to ensure consumer safety.
As the head of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, an organization that has been battling the introduction of higher ethanol blend fuels for several years, Maine’s effort to protect consumers from the risky and harmful effects of ethanol 15’s use should be lauded.
Ethanol 15 (E15) was prematurely introduced into the marketplace. In a rush to introduce a renewable fuel, E15 now appears at gas pumps across the country, causing confusion, anxiety, anger — and engine failure.
Too many citizens do not understand that E15 is only approved for use in 2001 and newer automobiles or flex-fuel vehicles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This means any other product with an engine is incompatible with E15, by law.
The risks of misfueling with higher ethanol fuel blends are not trivial, especially for Maine. Engine failure from using E15 is no small matter. For one, the forest and paper industry are greatly impacted when the engines of their chainsaws, chippers and grinders fail. Boats, snowmobiles and utility vehicles have stranded their users when their engine quits. Expensive landscape, snow removal and other power equipment have been ruined. These scenarios are not only inconvenient, but dangerous.
Even automobile makers are not convinced it is good for vehicle engines. We fully concur with AAA’s (Triple A) call that the sale and use of E15 “be suspended until additional gas pump labeling and consumer education efforts are implemented to mitigate problems for motorists and their vehicles.”
We agree consumers should always have a choice. Our country should move toward energy independence, and other fuel sources should be investigated. But to introduce a fuel that is potentially dangerous and harmful to so many engine products is reckless.
The totality of EPA’s education effort on E15 for the 150 million Americans using hundreds of millions of products is a 3-by-3-inch label at the gas pump. We find this wholly inadequate and dangerous.
OPEI is asking members of Congress to halt the sale of E15 and not ask consumers to bear the brunt of this hasty decision. Then, revisit our renewable fuel policy and make sure we introduce a biofuel that is safe and sustainable. If we truly believe in energy independence, it shouldn’t come at the price of putting our citizens at risk.
Maine’s action to preempt the known problems of E15 should be a model for other states who wish to protect their citizens from the dangers of this new fuel blend.
Kris Kiser is president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute and former vice president of government affairs at the American Forest and Paper Association.