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Outdoor Power Equipment Institute Says e15 Fuel Could Injure Operators, Equipment and the Environment

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) today announced that it has serious concerns with a premature rush to 15 percent ethanol (E15) or other mid-level fuel blends as being suggested by pro-ethanol producers. Without a formal waiver process through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and a continued misinterpretation of test results from a recent Department of Energy (DOE) report, introducing E15 and higher fuels to the marketplace for existing equipment pose serious risks to American consumers and businesses.

The DOE report, in fact, indicates that mid-level ethanol fuels could damage millions of forestry, lawn and garden, and other small engine products currently housed in consumers’ garages, boat slips, warehouses or being used by small businesses. Higher ethanol blends can cause performance irregularities and pose substantial safety and environmental hazards.

“The fact is that the use of E15 and higher levels of ethanol is a complex issue, and it can’t be rushed by efforts that overlook the impacts on consumer safety and economic interests,” said Kris Kiser, Executive Vice President at Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. “OPEI fully supports congressional efforts to increase the use of cellulosic fuels. We can design products to run on higher levels of ethanol.”

But, Kiser points out that existing small-engine equipment will likely experience performance irregularities and possible failure. Therefore the public’s awareness, education and safety should be at the forefront of any discussion of introducing new cellulosic fuel blends.

Added Kiser, “We need to acknowledge that current equipment -- including boats, chainsaws, lawn mowers, snow mobiles, motorcycles, generators and other small engine equipment -- may be permanently damaged and poses a safety risk if E15 fuel is used. Current equipment is neither designed, built or warrantied for mid-level blends.”

In a new report, independent environmental researcher Dr. Ron Sahu carefully critiques the DOE report that tested a small sample size of legacy vehicles and small non-road engines. DOE’s engine test results (but not the report’s summary) documents why the current push to E15 for existing equipment is not in consumers’ or the environment’s best interest:

  • Engine exhaust temperatures rose to an extent that may cause premature engine and equipment failure,
  • Safety hazards dramatically increased due to unintentional clutch engagement caused by high idle speeds,
  • Products were damaged to the point they could no longer operate, and
  • Numerous adverse operational issues arose – such as erratic engine and equipment operation, stalling of engines, and dramatic power reduction.

“The DOE study shows that of the 28 engines tested, all 28 had some significant problems with higher ethanol blends that the machines were not designed to operate on,” added Kiser.

OPEI will be submitting a letter to the EPA and DOE urging both agencies to utilize the existing formal waiver process. The process will provide the necessary studies and data to fully understand effects of introducing new fuel types into the marketplace. The studies also will provide information necessary to educate consumers about the use of mid-level ethanol fuels on existing and future products.

“OPEI is not anti-ethanol,” insisted Kiser. “We support congressional efforts to get the U.S. off foreign sources of oil. But, we will not put people’s safety at risk in the process.”

Kiser agrees that given adequate lead-time, outdoor power equipment manufacturers can and will build future products to run on higher than E10, “but we can’t put our customers safety and the economic environment at risk by putting higher blends into current equipment that simply isn’t built to run under those conditions,” noted Kiser.

Kiser also expressed concern that “current equipment on the market is designed to run on E0 to E10 fuel in order to meet EPA emissions and evaporative requirements. Changing the legal fuel may change the emissions profile, making it non-compliant.”

To read OPEI’s own study of the DOE testing report, go to Click on “newsroom” to access this release and the direct link to the study.

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