Ethanol going to 15 Percent? Not Quite Yet

Good news regarding Ethanol in our fuels.

On February 1st, we had a business partner luncheon where we met with some of our larger commercial landscape customers and representatives from the outdoor power equipment industry as well as fuel industry experts. We heard how fuels are being formulated, blended and delivered to the pump. We learned how proper storage and usage of fuels is absolutely necessary in today’s climate to ensure that our equipment doesn’t get damaged by bad fuel.

Several of the speakers mentioned how an increase from 10% to 15% ethanol would be horrible for small engines. Jerry Munden the Director of Technical Services with STIHL, Southeast answered this question: Can we use E15 in Our Products Now?

STIHL has found that use of E15 in STIHL products will cause higher operating temperatures resulting in:

  • Hard Starting
  • Improper and erratic idle
  • Vapor lock
  • Loss of power

While that was no evidence that E15 alone will directly cause engine failures the fact that ethanol causes the fuel to break down faster and phase separate has led to carburetor damage and damage of other parts in the engine. This being said E14 is NOT approved for use in STIHL products.

This statement was repeated over and over by the other guys on our panel including representatives from Kawasaki, Exmark and it was reinforced by companies who are creating products to help stabilize and combat the ethanol problem.

OK, so that’s my background for the good news.

It appears that legislation has been put in place that will block the 15% blend until more studies are done to determine how the new fuel blend affects engines.

A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) would require a comprehensive review of fuels containing more than 10% ethanol before they’re allowed in the marketplace.

By a vote of 19-7, the bill was approved by a House committee on science, space and technology. Sensenbrenner chairs the committee. (source)

Sensenbrenner goes on to voice the concern of most of us that E15, in small engines, is dangerous and there has not been enough independent scientific analysis completed.

The continuing takeaway from all this talk about fuels and ethanol is to make sure that you are educated about what is going on. We could get away with doing things in the past that will not work with the fuel available today. There is not an additive available that will totally remove all the characteristics of ethanol. If this were the case, it would be blended in the first place. We all need develop a good fuel hygiene plan that is driven by a preventative maintenance program. Education is vital for our industry.




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