The latest announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency outlining the proposed changes were issued over Thanksgiving. Sure, ethanol fuel mandates is a dry topic that seemingly causes readers to involuntarily nod off, but this legislation controls what type of fuel ends up at the local gas station, which in turn affects a rider every time they fill up their gas tank. In a nutshell, it should rank pretty darn high on the list of 'biker-concerns'. Rather than regurgitate the issue here, readers should head over to Clutch and Chrome’s article ‘Bikers need to read this before filling their gas tank again’ for an overview of the ‘ethanol debate’.
Quite frankly, the riding community shouldn’t be in the position we’re currently in. The reason we find ourselves revisiting this complex, yet in some ways very simple issue, appears to be down to large organizations more interested in holding a position, issuing press releases and conducting public relations rather than working on a solution. It’s not right and we’ll explain why in a moment.
First the latest about the fuel mandate, referred to as the 2017 Renewable Fuel Standard volume requirements. Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released details about the amount of ethanol that will be allowed into the nation’s fuel supply and according to the American Motorcyclist Association, they are higher than the agency’s May proposal. The AMA’s issue with this is what they consider an inadequate distribution and sales network as well as a low demand for higher ethanol blends.
Digging into the numbers, the Renewable Volume Obligations call for 19.28 billion gallons of biofuel for 2017, up from 18.11 billion gallons this year. The final EPA figure for 2017 was higher than the 18.8 billion gallons proposed in May.
“We told the EPA in May that increasing the amount of ethanol in our fuel supply creates an untenable situation for the marketplace and raises the risk to motorcyclists and ATV owners,” said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations. “The agency ignored our comments and the concerns of millions of motorcyclists. So, now it is up to Congress to fix the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
Even Kawasaki's 2017 Ninja 1000 needs to stop for gas eventually - Source Kawasaki
Riders who understand the issue and readers who are just back from the article linked above know using the incorrect ethanol-blended fuel can not only damage the average motorcycle, but void a manufacturer’s warranty. The agencies regulating the amount of ethanol in the fuel system know this as well. In fact, none of the estimated 22 million motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles in use in the United States is approved by the EPA to operate on ethanol blends higher than 10 percent.
The AMA being a motorcycle advocacy group and the organization fighting for bikers on this matter, naturally objects to this increase in the Renewable Volume Obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
“Increasing the amount of ethanol in our fuel supply is going to result in higher-ethanol blends, such as E15, at more pumps and stations,” Allard said. “The widespread availability of E15 and higher-ethanol fuels increases the risk that owners will inadvertently misfuel their motorcycles.”
Riders who have taken the time to follow this matter, or even those who listened to a recent Clutch and Chrome Podcast which brought together the two sides in the ethanol disagreement, may have this strange feeling a solution should be only a few conference calls away from at least riding in the right direction.
At the end of October, as Clutch and Chrome looked back on a great discussion between representatives of the AMA and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), there was a definite mood of optimism. Clutch and Chrome was so upbeat about how the conversation ended between these two, one a motorcycle advocacy group and the other representing the Ethanol industry, we titled our article ‘How the ethanol debate was turned around’;
Listeners of the podcast should be pleasantly surprised at how much the AMA and RFA actually agree on. The representative of the RFA, Robert White is a long-time biker and clearly has empathy for the needs of motorcycle enthusiasts. In many cases, everyone wants the same thing, to ensure the correct fuel is available and riders avoiding misfueling, or using the wrong blend of ethanol gasoline.
“A good way we could all work together is to support a comprehensive EPA information campaign,” noted AMA’s Rick Podliska.
The press release from the AMA about this recent EPA announcement and even the announcement itself shows we may have been a tad premature.
One of the surprising moments of the podcast was learning those on the call had never spoken to each other before. It would seem the idea of working together would involve discussing the common and agreed upon areas and start from there. However, that does require the two side to actually talk to each other. If they have been discussing the fuel mandate, the EPA announcement and the AMA’s response would indicate they didn’t come to an agreement.
Another moment which wasn’t highlighted but those interested in details may have noticed, the EPA allows any group to submit distribution plans to be reviewed and discussed. According to what was said on the podcast, of those on the call only RFA had submitted one.
Unfortunately, no one group is to blame in this matter and it would be unfair to look solely to the EPA, the governmental agency responsible for carrying out the mandate. The legislation for fuel standards has the good intent of assuring the United States is energy-independent, but how it’s determined and administered is where the noble purpose seems to fall apart.
Just as we can point to the need for AMA presenting a plan, the same attention should be given to RFA and its efforts to increase the supply of ethanol-blended fuels when there are qualified questions about the current delivery system in place. This system would be the gas stations across the country, most of which are independently owned and managed. These concerns aren’t just about gas stations being able to meet the EPA mandate, but also allowing consumers across the country access to the fuel they don’t necessarily want, but are required to use by what they ride.
Furthermore, as documented on the various articles and on the podcast, solutions directing riders to pump the correct blend, how stations are inspected to ensure they meet mandated requirements and even who bears the costs of those inspections can all be politely labelled as ‘wacky’.
‘By again increasing the amount of ethanol in America’s gasoline, the EPA is further straining the fuel marketplace by exceeding the blend wall by hundreds of millions of gallons,' is how the AMA aptly puts it. ‘The blend wall is the point at which no more ethanol can be blended without forcing consumers to use higher blends, such as E15, E30 and E85.’
The AMA is also concerned the increased reliance on corn-based ethanol could further reduce the amount of E0 fuel available.
‘Since the distribution network for E15 and E85 is limited, fuel producers may be forced to reduce E0 output to stay within the RVO rule, leaving owners of older and vintage motorcycles without a reliable fuel supply,’ the AMA notes in its press release.
Motorcycle and powersport enthusiasts should take time to read the above articles, listen to the podcast, get upset and then read and listen again. As the nation’s riders prepare to take part in various charity events, raising money for worthy causes and collecting toys to ensure every child has a holiday to remember, we should also demand a system that ensures big-hearted bikers have access to the appropriate fuel to fill their motorcycle tanks.
Simple, common-sense should really go beyond our time in the saddle, both individually and as a whole.