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Lamberty Report: "Small Engines, Big Problems"
by Ron Lamberty

According to the EPA, small engines account for about 25 percent of hydrocarbon emissions and 30 percent of carbon monoxide emissions from mobile sources. Push mowers pollute as much in an hour as 11 cars, riding mowers as much as 34 cars, and boats as much as 348 cars.

And although they accomplish that filthy feat using less than two percent of the nation’s fuel, small engines may become a key stumbling block to receiving EPA approval for mid-range ethanol blends like E20 and E30 because before those fuels can be used in cars, we have to prove they will work in mowers, weed whackers, and chainsaws.

You might imagine my bewilderment when I read that the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) – the “small engine” trade group – sent a letter to the EPA after reading our Blending Better Solutions guide and asked them to protect us all from mid-range blends of ethanol.

Apparently, they’re worried that people may accidentally fill up with E20 or E30 for their leaf blower. And if they do so, OPEI suggests that they will likely start on fire. They do not appear concerned about the carcinogenic smoke belching from the blower when it runs on gasoline…

Ok, maybe they didn’t exactly say you would start on fire, but since the letter falsely states that ACE’s blender pump guide used “cherry-picked excerpts from an EPA letter to make overly broad claims that mid-level blends can be legally sold at self-directed pumps with no compliance risks,” I think the “people will start on fire” characterization is fair.

Anyone who didn’t see warnings about compliance risks in ACE’s publication is either illiterate or wasn’t looking. And the “cherry-picked” quote we used was an entire paragraph of a seven paragraph letter. Big cherry.

OPEI asked EPA to provide “clear guidance” to retailers using blender pumps, suggesting mandatory labels to warn that putting anything above E10 in a non-FFV “is a violation of federal law and punishable by substantial fines.” I thought it was interesting – given the babysitter tone of their request – that OPEI believes people who are not smart enough to choose the right fuel for their engine would be smart enough to read such a label.

Ultimately, OPEI isn’t alone in its desire to keep the fueling status quo. An Inside EPA article about the letter shows that there’s some close coordination with the Auto Alliance in this effort to slow mid-range blends, with the groups asking the feds to step up enforcement against consumers who use mid-range blends and the retailers who offer them. As of mid-July, there were reports of shadowy government operatives paying particular attention to blender pump stations in the Midwest, looking to keep the environment safe from E30-pumping anarchists.

Reportedly, the federales took no action against the real polluters – the ones mowing their lawns.

 
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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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