Motor clubs endorse the use of E15

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Two motor clubs today endorsed gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, though the nation’s largest motor club, AAA, remains opposed to its use.

In announcing their support, Travelers Motor Club and Association Motor Club Marketing said they have not heard any complaints from members about the fuel, which U.S. EPA approved more than three years ago for use in cars that are model years 2001 and newer.

“We believe E15 is a much-needed product across the country,” said Mark Muncey, owner of Travelers Motor Club, in a conference call organized by the American Coalition for Ethanol.

The two motor clubs have 18 million members in all 50 states, according to the coalition.

According to ACE, there are currently 16 million vehicles — out of about 250 million total vehicles on the road — through model year 2014 that are specifically warrantied for E15 use. Another 15 million vehicles are flex-fuel, or can handle blends of ethanol in gasoline of up to 85 percent.

The backing from the motor clubs comes after several public statements from AAA calling on the agency to halt the use of E15 and to scale back the nation’s ethanol mandate.

AAA, which serves more than 54 million members in the United States and Canada, jumped into the debate over ethanol two years ago when it stated that it had concerns about E15, citing studies by the oil- and auto-funded Coordinating Research Council that found the fuel would damage engines and fuel components.

The CRC studies have since been refuted by the Department of Energy, which last year found there was no significant difference between using E15 and gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol. E10 makes up about 95 percent of the fuel used to power cars today.

In an email today, AAA spokesman Michael Green said the auto club’s position remains unchanged.

“AAA urges the Environmental Protection Agency and the administration to lower the amount of ethanol required to be blended into gasoline for 2014,” Green said. “More realistic targets would protect drivers by preventing a possible surge in gas prices or the increased use of potentially damaging E15 gasoline.”

There are about 85 gas stations in 12 states currently selling E15.

“The real-world findings of these two auto club owners mirror what we’ve heard from fuel station owners who have started to sell E15 or have sold it over the last couple of years,” ACE Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty said. “They’ve had no customer complaints, no breakdowns, they haven’t had to pay any repair bills for drivers who fill up with E15.”

According to Lamberty, E15 is the second-highest-volume fuel sold in most gas stations that sell the fuel and regularly sells for cheaper than gasoline containing 10 percent ethanol.

But though more ethanol generally lowers the price of gasoline at the pump, the U.S. Energy Information Administration today released data showing that greater ethanol use has meant that cars drive fewer miles on a tank of fuel.

According to EIA, the average energy content per gallon of gasoline has declined about 3 percent between 1993 and 2013; during that time, the share of ethanol in gasoline rose from 2 percent to 10 percent.