Briggs CEO Cites E15 Issues At D.C. Hearing
Briggs & Stratton President, Chairman & CEO Todd J. Teske urged members of Congress to rescind the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) partial waiver for E15 and establish gasoline blended with up to 10% ethanol as the general purpose domestic fuel.
Teske appeared earlier this week as an expert witness during a two-day hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Power on the renewable fuels standard, titled “Overview of the Renewable Fuel Standard: Stakeholder Perspectives.”
He listed five reasons why EPA should revisit its conditional certification of E15:
- Research has shown, and EPA has agreed, that use of E15 in small non-road engines can have harmful and costly consequences on small engines and outdoor power equipment.
“Briggs & Stratton has conducted extensive testing on levels of ethanol above 10%,” Teske said. “Increasing levels of ethanol in gasoline result in increased levels of alcohol. Alcohol has inherent properties that cause issues with our engines and they become more acute with increasing alcohol content.
“Increasing the alcohol in fuel changes the air-fuel ratio (enleanment) in our carbureted engines. E15 fuel, by definition would have an alcohol content ranging from zero to 15%. Our engines would have great difficulty in meeting both emissions and performance expectations with this type of alcohol range. Enleanment will also result in higher operating temperatures that will lower engine life due to issues such as valve sealing, piston scoring, and head gasket leakage, just to name a few.”
He also cited Dept. of Energy (DOE) testing that showed that “7 out of the 11 engines (tested) behaved “poorly” or “erratically,” with “incidents of unstable speeds, stalling, and clutch engagement at idle.”
- Research on warning label effectiveness suggests that an E15 warning label will do little to mitigate misfueling.
“Given the body of research on the effectiveness of warning labels, we believe that this warning will not prevent consumers from misfueling their engines with the E15 blend, and, with no one else liable, will leave the equipment owner liable for the damage to their products,” Teske said. “If consumers visit their local gas station and do not realize that the ethanol blend has been increased, this research would indicate that they are unlikely to heed the warning label on the pump. There has been no testing done by EPA to validate the effectiveness of the warning label, which is not consistent with recognized safety standards such as ANSI.
“When the U.S. transitioned from leaded gasoline to unleaded gasoline in the ‘70s and ‘80s, new cars running on unleaded gasoline were designed with different fuel tanks to be incompatible with older leaded gasoline in an effort to prevent misfueling. There is no such “transition” plan or tangible differentiation in place for E15 and it is solely up to the consumer to know what fuel is appropriate for their automobile, lawn mower, generator, pressure washer, etc. “
- Behavioral studies of customers at the gas pump conclude that consumers overwhelmingly favor the lowest priced option, regardless of the consequences. “Historical evidence suggests that when faced with a range of prices at the pump, consumers are far more likely to choose the lowest-priced option despite potential damages to their engines,” Teske said. He cited an EPA report that said that 10 years after the introduction of unleaded gasoline, “misfueling rates remained as high as 15.5%.”
“The New York Times reported that “customers would go out of their way to pump leaded gas if it was just a few cents cheaper,” Teske added. “If high rates of misfueling still occurred when physical obstacles were in place, we believe that a simple warning label next to the pump will not yield better results.“
- Misfueling due to lack of education to consumers concerning E15 will be significant.
“EPA has instructed stakeholders to “develop a broad public education and outreach campaign that provides both consumers and retailers with the information they need to avoid misfueling,” Teske said. “Briggs & Stratton is already taking steps to educate its customers about proper fueling for its products and has introduced additives and E0 gasoline products to assist consumers with selecting the proper fuel.”
But he added that “Briggs & Stratton does not feel it, nor the outdoor power equipment industry, should be held solely responsible for educating tens of millions of Americans of the dangers of misfueling, especially when many already own products which are incompatible with E15.”
He cited a recent study by the National Association of Convenience Stores in which consumers “believed that E15 had higher fuel economy than E10.” He added that study also found that of participants who said they would consider fueling their cars with E15, “60% of them owned cars for which E15 is incompatible and prohibited.”
“Despite our best efforts at education and prevention, “Teske said, “we believe the risk of misfueling will be substantial, and damage to our products will be irreversible.”
- The use of biofuels or “drop-in fuels” has been tested and could prevent misfueling.
Teske said his company “fully supports the development and use of biofuels, from any feedstock, which are “drop-in fuels.”
“Drop-in fuels had not yet materialized when the RFS was developed in previous market conditions and the EPA was compelled to grant the partial waiver to meet the statutory targets using ethanol,” he said.
Along with rescinding the current E15 waiver, Teske recommended that “all considerations to increase domestic biofuel levels in the future be subject to a formal EPA rulemaking whereby the market’s ability to safely distribute, retail and consume such fuel is provided for.”
For a full transcript of all witness remarks to the committee, go to: