Big retailers to warn customers about E15

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, February 21, 2014

Three large retailers plan to warn customers around the country this spring that high levels of ethanol could damage their lawn mowers and chain saws.

Lowe’s Companies Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and True Value Co. will all carry labels either in their stores or in catalogs warning customers that gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, or E15, cannot be used in their outdoor equipment. The signs and ads feature a red hand gesturing to the reader to stop and contain the phrase “Look Before You Pump.”

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, a longtime critic of U.S. EPA’s decision to approve the introduction of E15 into the marketplace, launched the campaign last year.

“The challenge for our industry is the machinery today are designed for a specific fuel,” Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the institute, said this week at an ethanol industry conference in Orlando, Fla. “One of the reasons we’ve taken the position we have on E15 is the machine is not designed to run on it.

EPA has approved E15 for use only in cars with model years 2001 and newer. Legally, outdoor power equipment, motorcycles and boats are not allowed to use the fuel — they are approved only for fuel with an ethanol content of up to 10 percent — because of ethanol’s corrosive nature.

But retailers say they worry that power equipment customers will fuel up with E15, and consequently damage their equipment, as it becomes more of a dominant fuel found in gas stations.

The “Look Before You Pump” campaign is “exactly what our stores need to meet the challenges posed by higher ethanol fuel blends,” said Ken Goodgame, senior vice president and chief merchandising officer at True Value.

Some Lowe’s and Wal-Mart stores already carry the signage. True Value will carry the warning on the back cover of its spring outdoor power catalog. The DIY Network is also supporting the program through social media and messaging on its TV shows.

About 60 stations in 12 states today offer E15 as a fuel choice, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.