Despite concerns from small engine manufacturers, E15 gasoline will now be sold year round

Updated Oct 12, 2018
“Look before you pump” is the new warning about E15 gasoline and small engines.“Look before you pump” is the new warning about E15 gasoline and small engines.

On Monday, President Trump announced the government will allow the sale of E15 (gasoline that is 15 percent ethanol) to year-round status despite warnings from outdoor power equipment manufacturers that the fuel is dangerous and can harm engines.

“We will continue to advise consumers and professional users of outdoor power equipment to ‘Look before you pump’ as E15 gasoline sales expand to year-round across the country,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.

Ethanol blended fuels are also questionable for boats, snowmobiles and motorcycles.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association says E15 is safe and approved for all 2001 and newer cars, trucks and SUVs. These model years represent more than 80 percent of vehicles on the road today.

But that leaves 20 percent of the cars on the road and the users of chainsaws, string trimmers, generators and other small gasoline engines in a predicament. E15 can ruin fuel pumps and potentially cause fires when used in these engines. The reason being is that ethanol can cause small gasoline engines to overspeed. Lacking the large cooling systems and sophisticated fuel/air management systems of today’s new automobiles, two-stroke and small gasoline engines can overheat and cause fires when fueled with ethanol blends. And ethanol may deteriorate gaskets, seals and hoses in some older cars, motorcycles, snowmobiles and boats causing fuel leaks and their attendant risks.

Prior to Trump’s announcement, E15 was banned during the summer, between June 1 and September 15, because it exacerbated smog, although the ethanol producers dispute this finding.

But ethanol has plenty of other problems. Pure ethanol has 33 percent less energy content than gasoline. This means when it’s blended as E10 gasoline, your automotive mileage will be reduced by about 10 percent. Ethanol also absorbs water from the atmosphere around it. This water will accumulate in fuel tanks and contribute the growth of microbes within the fuel tank. More about that here.

Ethanol can also make engines hard to start in winter because of insufficient vapor pressure.

Not all automakers have certified their engines for E15, so check your owner’s manual to be sure. Auto parts stores and some gas stations sell fuel additives that negate the effects of ethanol in fuel. Some of these also help stabilize the fuel so it remains usable over longer periods of time. Ethanol-free fuel is available at some gas stations but be prepared to pay up to 40 cents more per gallon for it.

For your crews that run outdoor power equipment, make sure they know to watch the labels on the pumps to prevent misfuelling and that they don’t mix their automotive gasoline with that designated for small engines and two-stroke engines.

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