AAA warns EPA to halt sale of E15 gas

Back in August we told you about the courts rejecting a challenge to an EPA mandate to start using 15% ethanol blends in fuels. The industry said we weren’t ready for it, consumer guides were nervous and the testing pointed to likely problems to come. Naysayers claimed that the tests were being done by partisan groups with a vested interest in the energy companies or… whatever. Either way, the EPA wasn’t going to listen.

This weekend, a decidedly non-partisan organization sent up a distress signal on the subject which just might garner a bit more attention. The AAA has warned the EPA that E-15 fuels will have a detrimental effect on the current fleet of cars, fuel distributors and just about everyone else.

The AAA says the Environmental Protection Agency and gasoline retailers should halt the sale of E15, a new ethanol blend that could damage millions of vehicles and void car warranties.

AAA, which issued its warning today, says just 12 million of more than 240 million cars, trucks and SUVs now in use have manufacturers’ approval for E15. Flex-fuel vehicles, 2012 and newer General Motors vehicles, 2013 Fords and 2001 and later model Porsches are the exceptions, according to AAA, the nation’s largest motorist group, with 53.5 million members.

“It is clear that millions of Americans are unfamiliar with E15, which means there is a strong possibility that many may improperly fill up using this gasoline and damage their vehicle,” AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet tells USA TODAY. “Bringing E15 to the market without adequate safeguards does not responsibly meet the needs of consumers.”

King Corn still holds a lot of sway, and the EPA seems willing to back up anything that promotes “green energy” regardless of the cost. But if you read into the findings cited by the AAA, the message may become very clear to consumers in a hurry. What will be affected? Damage to engines over the long run is a direct hit to consumers’ pocketbooks, but retail outlets are seeing the larger hit they may take as well.

The National Association of Convenience Stores says it’s also worried about the effect of E15 on station pumps and fuel lines. “The EPA says its OK to sell it, but for most retailers, there is too much uncertainty related to consumer demand and liability protection, especially if it’s later determined E15 is a defective product or there are problems,” spokesman Jeff Lenard says.

It may look like it’s too late to back off from this particular cliff, but it’s not. The EPA can loosen the restriction and grant waivers until such time as new technologies can be put in place to handle the hotter burning, more corrosive blends. Will that happen?

Well… it’s the government. You know how good they are at staving off disaster. Don’t worry, citizens. I’m sure everything will be just fine!