FTC falls short on ethanol labeling requirements, OPEI says

Updated Jan 19, 2016

The makers of outdoor power equipment aren’t altogether satisfied with the Federal Trade Commission’s final rule on ethanol labeling – formally titled “Automotive Fuel Ratings, Certification and Posting” – which the agency published in the Federal Register late last week.

OPEI_logoWhile the rule, which the FTC conceivably could tweak before it’s truly final, covers fuel mixtures of several types, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) focuses, passionately, on just one: the ethanol content of gasoline.

The agency’s rule stops short of prescribing precisely what labels must say, instead providing examples of language that would comply. In the case of ethanol, the published rule contains the following example of an ethanol label it would consider acceptable: ‘‘___% Ethanol/Use Only in Flex-Fuel Vehicles/May Harm Other engines.’’

For OPEI, which represents more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers, ethanol has been among members’ top concerns for years now. Most engine manufacturers, according to OPEI, warn that fuels containing more than 10 percent ethanol can damage or destroy lawn mowers, chain saws, generators, utility vehicles and other equipment with small engines.

Ethanol02 copy 2“We appreciate efforts by the Federal Trade Commission to regulate and manage the rapidly-changing fuels marketplace,” said Kris Kiser, the organization’s president and CEO, “requiring that gas pumps be labeled with percentage of gasoline and percentage of ethanol added.

“However, the agency didn’t go far enough. We fear consumers will remain confused and inadvertently misfuel their small engine equipment, in particular.”

OPEI’s concerns are based in part on consumer surveys indicating only 23 percent of Americans check the ethanol content of fuel before pumping it. A little less than half say they check for any warning labels before fueling their cars.

For its part, the business group launched a “Look Before You Pump” campaign more than two years ago. Kiser says OPEI would like to see the FTC become more involved in consumer education, especially because of the issue’s importance not only to professional landscape contractors but to the general public as well.

“It is more important than ever, for consumers to pay attention at the gas pump,” Kiser said. “You must put the right fuel in the right product. We would like for labels to get more attention from consumers and for EPA or the FTC to commit funding to educate consumers about proper fuel usage.”

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