In a statement, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said he appreciates President Trump’s “steadfast support for our patriotic farmers and for his commitment to expand the sale of E15 and unleash the full potential of American innovation and ingenuity as we continue to demonstrate our rightful place as the world’s leader in agricultural and energy production.”
“This move to approve the year-round use of E15 in time for the summer driving season provides consumers with more choices when they fill up at the pump, driving demand for our farmers and improving the air we breathe,” Perdue said in the statement. “While the Trump administration and USDA are expanding the ethanol market in the United States, we continue to fight for more export markets in Brazil, Mexico, China, and other countries across the globe.”
Corn and soybean farmers praise the action while officials in the boating industry criticize it, saying gasoline with 15 percent ethanol will damage marine engines.
Don LaBar, head of the service shop’s marine and boat division at Caddie Labar’s boat dealer in Dallas, called E15 “junk” and said it can impact gas lines, carburetors and fuel systems and cause rubber to break down.
“Boats have gas line hoses which are rubber. That’s the big thing. What it also does is it actually sucks moisture right out of the air and puts it in the gas tank of the boat. Most gas tanks of boats are ventilated,” he said. “Mr. Trump promised the farmers and the farmers are trying to make money. I have to support him but I don’t like it.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said E15 can be used in flexible-fuel vehicles, model year 2001 and newer cars and light-duty trucks.
Yet, Subaru officials caution drivers with newer vehicles in their owners’ manuals not to use gasoline that contains more than 10 percent ethanol.
Bobby Murray, service manager for Minooka Subaru in Moosic, said E15 could damage fuel injectors and seals. Subaru also doesn’t cover E15 under warranty.
Dan DelBalso, co-owner of Pat & Dan’s DelBalso Ford in Kingston, doesn’t recommend using E15 in newer Ford vehicles. If they are flexible-fuel vehicles, however, it is OK, he said.
Other automakers, including BMW, Mercedes, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Volvo, have vehicle models not approved for E15 since it can harm engines and drivers are encouraged to check their owners’ manuals.
E15 should not be used in boats as well as vehicles with heavy-duty engines such as school buses, transit buses and delivery trucks, on-highway and non-road motorcycles, snowmobiles, engines in equipment such as lawnmowers and chainsaws as well as model year 2000 and older cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles, the EPA spokesperson said.
The new rule from the Trump administration and EPA will allow some gas stations to sell blends containing up to 15 percent ethanol year-round. It ends a summertime ban that former President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency imposed in 2011.
Some Sheetz stores in Northeast Pennsylvania, including locations in on Route 93 in Sugarloaf Twp., West Front Street in Berwick and 500 Mount Pleasant Drive, Scranton, have E10 and E15 available.
LaBar said he thinks only a few places will see the gasoline blend made of 15 percent ethanol year-round.
“The farmers can’t produce that much fuel, not the way we use gas in America,” he said.
Some authorized gas stations, including Newell Fuel at 1355 Memorial Highway in Shavertown, Blue Ridge Travel Plaza in Mountain Top and Wawa on State Route 940 in White Haven, sell ethanol-free gasoline.
Higher ethanol blends tend to be slightly cheaper than the standard 10-percent gasoline.
Today, 97 percent of the country’s fuel mix contains about 10 percent ethanol and John-Michael Donahue, spokesman for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said he is concerned that the availability of E15 will continue to spread.
In addition to damaging marine engines, he said E15 is prohibited by federal law to be used in small engines in lawn mowers, chainsaws and other power equipment.
Gas pumps that include E15 are marked with a very small orange label which Donahue said is not enough to protect consumers from misuse.
He is concerned when people fill up at gas stations during summer boating season, a rising number of them will use the wrong fuel that contains the blend with 15% ethanol.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association has repeatedly voiced opposition to the EPA’s proposal leading up to the action on E15, calling it a direct threat to consumer safety.
Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said for more than a year, the recreational boating industry and other stakeholders have been “working hard to convey the harmful effects of E15 and dissuade the administration from moving forward with this now official rule.”
“Our industry remains steadfastly opposed to this policy given a simple set of facts: E15 destroys engines in a wide range of everyday consumer products, contains less energy content than gasoline and other biofuel alternatives, and is terrible for the environment — all of which are reasons the summer sale ban on E15 was implemented in the first place,” Dammrich said in a statement.
Dammrich added that the absence of better consumer education and protection efforts in the new rule further jeopardizes the safety of boaters and others who use small gas-powered engines.
More than 60 percent of Americans mistakenly assume that any gas sold at their local station is safe for all their products and nearly nine in 10 say the government should do more to protect consumers from “misfueling” with E15, he said.
“With hard-to-read, often hidden warning labels serving as the only misfueling prevention measure currently in place, it’s hard to fathom why the EPA rebuffed even modest reforms to at the pump safeguards,” Dammrich said.
By lifting the restrictions on the sale of higher ethanol blends of gasoline, Trump kept a campaign promise he made to farmers suffering from the trade war from China and his decision to impose tariffs.
Ethanol is made from corn and other crops and the action on E15 was hailed as win for farmers.
Gary Moyer Sr., who owns 130 acres of farmland in Hollenback Twp. where he grows corn and soybeans and raises beef cattle, said he is sure the final rule on E15 will have a positive impact on farmers and they could see an increase in what they are paid for corn.
The Trump administration also recently announced the federal government will spend an additional $16 billion to help farmers hurt by the trade war with China.
Moyer, who ships some of his corn outside of Mifflinville, said he has already seen some extra money this year and “every little bit helps.”
Keith Hilliard, president of the Luzerne County Farm Bureau who grows corn, soybeans, potatoes, wheat and hay on 1,200 acres of farmland in Sugarloaf Twp., said while the new rule could be a win for farmers because they could be paid more money for corn, he is not yet sure of the impact.
“We could see a little bit more money but I don’t know how much,” Hilliard said. “I’m kind of glad to see that we’re trying to be more self-sufficient as a country.”
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