WASHINGTON – Each day I wake up to someone predicting ethanol will do something negative in the future. When it doesn’t happen, they get a free pass, allowing them to wait and make the claim again. No group is better about this than the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). For years, AMA has been telling consumers that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will force more ethanol into the fuel supply and force every car, truck, SUV, motorcycle and lawn mower to use E15. They have also stated that there is an impending E15 mandate, and that the 4-gallon minimum EPA requires for E15 sales will preclude motorcycles from being able to fuel with a legal fuel. Guess what? None of that has happened, yet they keep this record on repeat.
There are several things that the AMA either doesn’t understand about the RFS, or is intentionally trying to mislead the public about the facts.
1. We are already blending more ethanol than the RFS requires, or even the proposed renewable volume obligation numbers for 2018. Just this week, numbers released by the federal government showed our current ethanol blend rate at 10.58%. E15 is only available in 1 out of every 140 fuel stations, and E10 remains an option at every one of them. E15 has been in the marketplace for over five years now, and not one motorcycle has misfueled, nor has there been a denied warranty claim on any engine. In the meantime, companies like Indian Motorcycles have upped their warranty coverage to 15% ethanol.
2. If you really want the option of ethanol-free gasoline, you should truly appreciate consumers like me that want to buy higher blends of ethanol like E15 and E85. Every time a consumer fills with one of these fuels, it allows more E0 to be blended by absorbing more ethanol than a traditional gallon of E10. That is how the RFS was designed. There is a set number of gallons of renewable fuels that needs to be blended. Some may blend more, some less, but at the end of the year, it needs to balance out. Need proof? The number of ethanol-free stations has grown each of the past five years. Even the American Petroleum Institute (API) highlights this fact (http://www.api.org/news-policy-and-issues/news/2015/05/20/api-consumer-demand-for-ethanol-free-gas). If AMA was correct in its assumption, how is this possible?
3. Finally, AMA attempts to confuse consumers on how fuel is delivered by the fuel dispenser. Just yesterday, AMA Vice President for Government Relations Wayne Allard posted this opinion piece (http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/reform-the-ethanol-mandate/article/2632824), claiming that it is commonplace when using blender pumps to have E85 and E10 in the same hose. The chances of that are all but nonexistent, and the chances of a motorcycle rider following an E85 customer at one of those rare stations ranks up there with the likelihood of winning the Powerball. But, even if all those stars aligned, there is just 0.2 gallons of hose residual left from the previous customer. The odds of stumbling onto a station selling premium and E85 in the same hose is tough enough, but if motorcycle owners want to avoid this one in a million chance, just avoid stations that sell higher blends in the same hose. Most will find it tougher to find one than avoid it.
AMA continually states that it represents motorcyclists, but has made fighting ethanol its top priority. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has made attempts to work with AMA in the past. We even offered to share our promotion at the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally with them, but they declined. They expect EPA to educate members on all things E15, and pay for it. My only explanation is that their efforts are nothing more than a membership drive. How else do you explain their unwillingness to work with the ethanol industry to minimize the concerns of motorcyclists through education and working with EPA? They weren’t at the table when RFA worked with EPA to address motorcycle concerns about EPA’s 4-gallon minimum. They also had the opportunity to submit their own Misfueling Mitigation Plan (MMP) to EPA, to help direct how E15 is dispensed and labeled. AMA declined that too. The only organization that has an approved MMP is the Renewable Fuels Association.
Another item left out of AMA’s anti-ethanol crusade is that its efforts would also raise fuel prices. Motorcycles love octane, and ethanol is the cheapest source of octane. I watched hundreds of motorcycles fill with ethanol-blended fuel during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, and didn’t hear one complaint. There were plenty of questions, but everyone eventually fueled. Replacing it with petroleum-based products would increase the price substantially, while introducing more harmful carcinogens to the environment.
It is easy to further demonstrate how narrow AMA’s focus is on fuel: the group doesn’t ever mention any concern on octane shorting seen nearly every fill from common hose fueling of 85/87 octane with premium. If the last customer purchased a lower octane, there is no chance that the motorcycle rider will ever reach the desired octane they want and actually purchased at a much higher price. Speaking of 85 octane, each year I hear from fellow riders that complain about 85 octane gasoline in the higher altitude around Sturgis, S.D. Some stations only offer it. This fuel is not approved by any engine manufacturer, let alone motorcycle manufacturers, yet millions of gallons are sold daily. This is just one more example of fuel issues that don’t even hit AMA’s radar, but affect more motorcyclists than higher ethanol blends each day.
I am not sure how many times AMA will cry wolf on ethanol, but after attending the largest motorcycle rally on the planet, I heard many that are no longer listening. One rider said, “What is AMA’s beef? I use it and it works just fine.” I don’t know my friend, I just don’t know.
Ride Safe, Fuel Right.