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AAA Calls To Suspend Sale Of New Ethanol Fuel

Dec 4, 2012
Originally published on December 4, 2012 6:50 pm

AAA has warned against potential damage that a new blend of gasoline could do to some engines. And the warning has started a fight over renewable fuels and the future of what we put in our gas tanks.

The fuel is called E15 — named for the percentage of ethanol in the blend. Most of the gas that's sold in the U.S. has about 10 percent ethanol in it.

The Environmental Protection Agency has certified that all vehicles from 2001 and newer can run on E15. But, says Eric Evarts with Consumer Reports, many automakers "have said that they will not honor warrantees for cars running on E15, even among the cars that the EPA says can run it."

That's because many automakers are worried that the new mix of fuel can damage the fuel lines in your car over time.

"We're not opposed to ethanol, we're not opposed to ethanol being added to gasoline. Our concern is that the E15 blend is one that has the potential to do damage to people's vehicles if they inadvertently put it in their gas tank," says AAA CEO Robert Darbelnet.

AAA wants to suspend sales of E15 gasoline. The group surveyed its members, and 95 percent of them didn't know what it was.

"We are opposed to E15 being made available to consumers who have not been adequately informed of the consequences of using the product, nor have they been adequately informed of whether or not they could put it in their vehicle without risking violating their warranty," Darbelnet says.

Bob Dinneen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry trade group, points out that E15 is available in only a handful of gas stations. He says there's plenty of time to educate drivers about the new fuel.

"I think AAA has been sidling up to the big oil companies a little too much, and their concerns about E15 are completely misplaced," Dinneen says. "It's really about the future and other advanced biofuels that, if demonstrated to be viable commercially, can take not 10 percent of the barrel, but a third or 40 or 50 percent of the barrel. That's what this is about."

Meanwhile, the EPA says it's working to let consumers know which cars can and cannot use E15.

But unless laws change, it's still on the way to gas stations soon.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

You're probably used to seeing certain options at the gas pump. There are high and low octanes, and there is diesel. Well, now, you might find a new blend of gasoline called E15. And AAA is sending a warning to motorists about it. The group says that new gas could do damage to your engine. That warning is part of a fight over renewable fuels and the future of what we put in our gas tanks. Here's NPR's Sonari Glinton.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Most of the gas that's sold in the U.S. has ethanol in it, which right now is made up mostly of corn. When you go to the pump to fill up, it makes up about 10 percent of the blend. We call it gas. Fuel geeks call it E10. That's what we have now. The new stuff is called E15. And you guessed it, it's about 15 percent ethanol.

ERIC EVARTS: Essentially, the EPA has certified all vehicles from the 2001 model year and newer to run on E15.

GLINTON: That's Eric Evarts. He is with Consumer Reports. He's going to help me sort this out. Now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, says you can put E15 in any car built after 2001. There is a but though.

EVARTS: A lot of automakers who have said that they will not honor warranties for cars running on E15 even among the cars that the EPA says can run it.

GLINTON: That's because many automakers are worried that the new mix of fuel can damage the fuel lines in your car over time, in steps AAA, the motor club.

BOB DARBELNET: I'm Bob Darbelnet, president and CEO of AAA. We're not opposed to ethanol. We're not opposed to ethanol being added to gasoline. Our concern is that the E15 blend is one that has the potential to do damage to people's vehicles if they inadvertently put it in their gas tank.

GLINTON: AAA wants to suspend sales of E15 gasoline. The group surveyed its members and 95 percent of them didn't know what it was. Again, Bob Darbelnet.

DARBELNET: We are opposed to E15 being made available to consumers who have not been adequately informed of the consequences of using the product nor have they been adequately informed of whether or not they could put in their vehicle without risking violating their warranty.

BOB DINNEEN: I think AAA has been saddling up to the big oil companies a little too much, and their concerns about E15 are completely misplaced.

GLINTON: Bob Dinneen is CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol industry trade group. Dinneen points out that E15 is available in only a handful of gas stations. He says there is plenty of time to educate drivers about the new fuel.

DINNEEN: It's really about the future and other advanced biofuels that if demonstrated to be viable commercially can take not 10 percent of the barrel but a third, a 40 or 50 percent of the barrel. That's what this is about.

GLINTON: Meanwhile, the EPA says it's working to let consumers know which cars can and cannot use E15. But unless laws change, it's still on its way to gas stations soon. Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.