Most Americans unaware of ethanol content in gasoline — poll

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Most Americans don’t pay attention to how much ethanol is in the gasoline they use to fill up their cars and small equipment, according to polling results released today by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute.

Sixty-three percent of Americans fill up with the cheapest gasoline available whenever they can, regardless of ethanol content, according to the results. Fewer than a quarter, or about 23 percent, of Americans surveyed said they noticed how much ethanol was in gasoline at gas stations.

The vast majority of gasoline sold at gas stations today contains about 10 percent ethanol, though U.S. EPA has approved a 15 percent ethanol blend for cars with model years 2001 and newer. Higher blends are also available for flex-fuel vehicles.

The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute has raised concerns about increasing the level of ethanol in gasoline because small engines are not compatible with levels greater than 10 percent. The survey comes as EPA recently released proposed renewable fuel targets for 2014 through 2016 that would require more ethanol use in the market. The Department of Agriculture also announced that it would award up to $100 million for installing gas pumps that can handle higher blends of ethanol (Greenwire, May 29).

Harris Poll conducted two online surveys for OPEI. The firm conducted the first survey of 2,015 Americans 18 years or older from April 23-27 and the second survey of 2,090 Americans 18 years or older from May 15-19. Harris Poll said there was no sampling error because the surveys were not based on a probability sample.

The surveys together found that 74 percent of people are unaware that it’s illegal to put blends of ethanol higher than 10 percent into small-engine equipment, such as lawn mowers and chain saws.

While gasoline containing higher levels of ethanol is supposed to be labeled as such, only 47 percent of Americans said they check the gas station pump for labels before filling up their cars.

“Unfortunately, decision-making at the fuel pump is getting more complicated, as higher ethanol blended fuels are becoming available,” said Kris Kiser, OPEI’s chief executive and president, in a statement. “The research shows that the American public is woefully unaware and uneducated about ethanol blended fuels, and how to use them.”