The Real Deal with E15 Fuel and Four-Gallon Fill-Ups

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Every month, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) releases notes on the various happenings and movements that are occurring in the two-wheeled political landscape.

September being no different, one of the AMA’s line items is the return of a four-gallon minimum purchase recommendation of E15 fuel, courtesy of the American Coalition for Ethanol.

If this issue sounds familiar, it is because a similar provision was put forward by the EPA back in 2012, but was ultimately withdrawn when it was clear most motorcycle carried only 3-5 gallons of gas, and were not EPA-approved to run E15 fuel.

I wasn’t planning on rehashing this story when the AMA’s note came out, but since there have been a few reports with some inaccurate information, I thought it best to address what is going on with E15 fuel this time around.

First off, unlike in 2012 when the EPA was pushing for minimum-purchase requirements on E15 fuel, this new provision is a recommendation to retailers, not from the EPA but instead from the American Coalition for Ethanol.

For those who don’t know, the American Coalition for Ethanol is a lobbying group for corn farmers – corn being the primary ingredient for making ethanol.

This recommendation is not only non-binding, and not from a government entity, but it also only applies only to blended pumps – those are the gas pumps that dispense different grades of fuel from the same nozzle.

The theory is that up to a quart of fuel can be stored in the hoses and nozzle, meaning that the first gallon of E10 pumped, could actually be one-quarter E15, and vice versa. The same theory applies on pumps that use a single nozzle for different octane-rated gasoline, though we seem to care less about this issue.

As you can imagine, the minimum volume requirement concerns the AMA, as not only would a motorcyclist have to pay for four gallons of fuel, but potentially 1/16th of that fuel could be E15, which creates the worry that this could damage to the motorcycle’s engine.

Some quick math tells us that the maximum ethanol rating in that situation is that the fuel would blend to E10.3, which is part of the reason why a four-gallon minimum is being recommended by the American Coalition for Ethanol. At four-gallons or more, the amount of E15 that blended pumps dispense is trivial.

That still leaves the four-gallon fill-up a bit of an issue though, or does it?

Because what all of this debate seems to forget is that the the EPA still mandates that stations who dispense E10 and E15 from the same hose must also provide a separate E10 pump for consumers as well, thus giving motorcyclists the ability to avoid the E15 issue altogether.

Let’s be really clear on one thing, the ethanol lobby is a giant racket for corn farmers, who are already heavily subsidized by the government.

But in this case, the ethanol lobby is at least being reasonable with its recommendation, because there will be motorcyclists who will unwittingly use a blended pump for a small fill-up and get more E15 than they thought.

I image though, that as long as Iowa remains a swing state in politics, the ethanol fuel issue will remain. Expect to see this topic pop-up again and again, for the foreseeable future.

Source: AMA

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.