FTC proposes new labeling requirements for ethanol blends

By Erin Voegele | April 11, 2014

The Federal Trade Commission has published a proposed rule in the Federal Register to amend its Rule for Automotive Fuel Ratings, Certification and Posting that would adopt and revise rating, certification and labeling requirements for ethanol-gasoline blends. According to the proposal, the amendment would also allow an alternative octane rating method. The FTC said in the proposal that the amendments aims to help purchasers identify the correct fuel for their vehicles.

According to the proposal, the FTC previously proposed amendments governing ethanol blends to its Fuel Rating Rule in a 2010 notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). In finalizing those amendments in 2011, the FTC deferred consideration of ethanol blend labeling to consider the EPA’s approval of E15 for 2001 and newer vehicles. In the new proposal, the FTC said it is now proposing ethanol labeling amends that take into account comments received on the 2010 NPRM, EPA’s action on E15 and changes in an ASTM International specification regarding ethanol.

“The amendments proposed today retain the 2010 NPRM's proposal that entities rate and certify all ethanol blends, but alter the proposed ethanol label's disclosures, to provide consumers with more precise concentration and suitability information. The new proposed amendments also exempt EPA-approved E15 from the commission's labeling requirements,” explained the FTC in the proposal.

The proposed rulemaking would require ethanol blends, with the exception of E15, to be identified with orange labels that contain the message “use only in flex-fuel vehicles/may harm other engines.” The label would also be required to disclose the percentage of ethanol contained in the fuel, rounded off to the nearest interval of 10.

Regarding the decision not to include an octane rating on the requirement label, the FTC said that requiring octane ratings for ethanol blends might incorrectly suggest those blends are interchangeable with gasoline. “Not only would an octane rating not provide useful information to consumers, it might deceive them about the suitability of the fuel for their vehicles,” said the FTC in the rulemaking. “Ethanol blends have naturally occurring high octane levels. Conventional vehicle owners might misinterpret those blends' higher octane content as signifying that they are better for conventional gasoline engines.”

The new octane rating method addressed by the proposed rule uses infrared sensor technology to measure octane levels of gasoline.

Comments on the proposed rule are due on June 2. A full copy of the proposed rule and instructions on how to submit comments is available on the Federal Register website.