The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) concurs with the decision announced by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on June 17 to delay its ruling on whether to allow the ethanol portion of blended gasoline to be increased from the current 10 percent to 15 percent.
"This is encouraging news because much more research needs to be done to be sure that increased levels of ethanol in gasoline are beneficial, rather than damaging, to motorcycle engines and components," said Imre Szauter, AMA government affairs manager.
"The AMA supports the use of cleaner-burning fuels but we are concerned that, if the allowable level of ethanol is raised, it could result in premature engine damage or failure while a bike is being ridden on a highway," Szauter explained. "We are also concerned about any degradation in performance, fuel economy and rideability that may result from the long-term use of blended fuels with greater than 10 percent ethanol."
Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying group, asked the EPA in March 2009 to allow gasoline to contain up to 15 percent ethanol. The EPA had planned to issue a decision by December 2009 but then said a decision would come in mid-2010. The EPA recently said a decision won’t be made until at least the fall because more tests need to be completed.
Currently, pump gasoline in the United States can contain up to 10 percent ethanol, which is used to increase octane, reduce carbon monoxide emissions and provide an alternative to petroleum-based fuels. Motorcycle manufacturers currently only certify their engines to run on fuels that have a 10 percent or less blend.
Increasing the percentage of ethanol could have a negative impact on motorcycle engines, since burning ethanol creates more heat than conventional gasoline. That has the potential to damage air-cooled motorcycle engines.
Also, fuel systems on bikes may be susceptible to corrosive effects of higher concentrations of ethanol in gas. And while ethanol helps reduce carbon monoxide levels in engine exhaust, it can also increase the levels of oxides of nitrogen, one of the components of smog.
"Until studies show that a higher ethanol blend won’t damage motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle (ATV) engines, and won’t make motorcycles emit more nitrogen oxides than are allowed by the EPA, the AMA can’t support any proposal to allow a higher blend," Szauter said.
The AMA is a member of AllSAFE, the Alliance for a Safe Alternative Fuels Environment, a group formed to ensure that fuels containing ethanol are promoted in a thoughtful manner. AllSAFE is made up of associations that represent consumer and commercial users of ethanol blends, manufacturers of boats, vehicles, engines and equipment, and retailers who sell gasoline and ethanol-fuel blends.