When the EPA first made the decision to allow E15 blends of gasoline, the lawn care industry was abuzz. We know that this blend of fuel has not been approved for engines such as those in chain saws, leaf blowers and lawn equipment – in fact it is illegal to use it to fuel this equipment – and may even damage or cause problems in engines of other equipment used in the industry that have not been designed to run on fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in it. The concern now becomes what retailers will do if they do not have the resources available to sell both E10 and E15 blends of fuel. If retailers choose to only sell the E15 blend, it leaves the possibility that consumers will misfuel their small engines with E15.
As a lawn care operator and landscaper, you need to stay on top of this issue. A coalition of small engine groups – including outdoor power equipment operators – has petitioned the EPA seeking a mandate that would ensure the continued availability of E10 at stations, at least until the products that have not been approved for use end up out of the marketplace or until manufacturers have a chance to design engines that are approved to use the E15 blend.
The EPA says it is writing rules for clear labeling on pumps so that consumers won’t use the wrong blend when E15 is available, as early as this summer, but that doesn’t address the issue of what will happen if E10 is no longer offered at a station. If only E15 is available, there isn’t much that can be done to prevent a customer from misfueling with the wrong blend. Also, the question comes up regarding price. What happens if the E15 blend is less expensive than the E10 blend? With gas prices skyrocketing, cost is a big factor in what consumers will buy. So, if consumers purchase more E15 gas at a station because it costs less per gallon, that station may choose to sell only that blend, which only adds to the confusion.
This is a concern for the whole industry, and being informed is the first step that everyone can take to make the transition easier. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (www.opei.org) is one of the main organizations leading the mandate, and there is plenty of discussion at LawnSite.com, so take the time to do some research about how this will affect you and your business, and take a stand.
Amy K. Hill