Renewable Fuel Standard – Motorcycle Legislation

AMA: Renewable Fuel Standard a Risk to MotorcyclesThe American Motorcyclist Association reported this week that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released its Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume requirements.

The new standard mandates widespread availability of higher-ethanol fuel blends, such as E15, which increase the risk of misfueling for motorcycles and all-terrain-vehicles. As you might be aware, higher-ethanol fuels have a laundry list of performance and mechanical issues associated with it.

Under the current RFS, EPA renewable Volume Obligations are actually lower than stated requirements. But the new RFS will lead to more ethanol blends making their way to stateside pumps next year.

In 2014, the EPA set the RFS at 16.28 billion gallons. In  2015, that number climbed to 16.93 billion gallons. However, in 2016 the total will now be raised to 18.11 billion gallons.

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Contrary to the volume obligations that the EPA initially recommended in May (when the EPA proposed setting the new RFS standard for 2014), the levels that were actually produced and used totaled 15.93 billion gallons in 2014. In 2015 16.3 billion gallons were used, and for 2016 17.4 billion gallons are predicted.

Wayne Allard, AMA VP of Government Relations says: “We are extremely disappointed that the EPA bowed to pressure from the ethanol industry and agreed to foist more ethanol onto the backs of American consumers. Any increase in the amount of ethanol required in our fuel supply, coupled with America’s decreasing demand for gasoline, is going to result in higher-ethanol blends, such as E15, at more pumps and stations. And the widespread availability of E15 and higher-ethanol fuels increases the risk that motorcyclists will inadvertently misfuel their bikes.”

E15 fuel is a blend of 85% gasoline and 15% ethanol. That is a 50% increase in the volume of ethanol over the common E10 blend which is widely used by Americans at the pump.

The US has an estimated 22 million motorcycles and All-terrain-vehicles in use, none of which have been approved by the EPA to operate on ethanol blends higher than the current 10% blend. By using high-ethanol blended fuel, those vehicles could potentially be deemed illegal under this new requirement. Aside from potential engine and fuel system damage that these higher-ethanol blends may cause, the consumer may be forced to void the manufacturer’s warranty.

Increasing the amount of ethanol in America’s gasoline supply severely strains the fuel market by exceeding the “blend wall” by hundreds of millions of gallons. The blend wall is the point at which no more ethanol can be introduced into the market without forcing consumers to utilize higher blends, such as E15, E30 and E85.

The AMA also raised concerns of a decrease in availability regarding the current E10 fuel which most American vehicles rely on. Under these new standards, ethanol free fuel may become unavailable. E0’s production is expected to go from 9.2 billion gallons to 130 million in 2016.

“Owners of vintage motorcycles already have trouble finding E0,” Allard said. “What are they supposed to do if ethanol-free fuel disappears entirely?”

The spread of high-ethanol fuels is being supported by a $100 million matching grant program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, helping fund the purchase and installation of blender pumps at service stations across 21 states.

In the current design, these blender pumps dispense several blends of fuel and are known to retain as much as a quart of fuel in the delivery system after use. The amount of E15 or higher-ethanol blends in a motorcycle’s comparatively small gas tank creates a risk for the owner.

In the face of all of this, the AMA collected 29,379 signatures in protest of the higher-ethanol fuel mandates, during the EPA’s comment period which ended July 27 of this year. The AMA encouraged the EPA to lower, rather than increase the standard. Those signatures, along with all of their comments were forwarded to the EPA.

Currently, the EPA’s proposed standards include: Cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuels and traditional corn-based ethanol. The corn-ethanol volumes would be about 12 billion gallons for 2014, 12.2 billion gallons in 2015 and 12.4 billion gallons in 2016. Over all, this could mean to higher instances of fuel mismanagement for all riders in the US.