Big Oil’s E15 Hypocrisy: Hello Pot, Meet Kettle

FROM THE DECEMBER ISSUE: The Oil Industry's sanctimonious attacks on E15 are false.
By Geoff Cooper | November 23, 2018

While President Donald Trump’s October announcement calling for the year-round availability of E15 was enthusiastically cheered by biofuel producers, farmers and consumers, it drew predictable jeers and indignation from the oil industry and its allies. And hell hath no fury like Big Oil scorned.

In response to the president’s E15 directive, the American Petroleum Institute launched a barrage of advertisements ridiculously claiming E15 can “damage engines,” “put consumers at risk,” and “void manufacturer warranties.” The API ads go on to assert that three out of four vehicles on the road are “not designed for E15.”

Of course, none of those claims are true.

After subjecting E15 to the most extensive testing in the history of U.S. motor fuels, the U.S. EPA in 2011 approved the use of the fuel in all light-duty vehicles built in 2001 or later. Thus, based on the most recent vehicle registration data, more than 90 percent of the automobiles on U.S. highways and byways today are legally approved by EPA to use E15 based upon their compatibility with the fuel.

As for the claim that using E15 could somehow “void” warranties, the Renewable Fuels Association recently released a detailed analysis of model year 2019 vehicle owner’s manuals and warranty statements. Our study revealed that approximately 93 percent of the new 2019 vehicles arriving at dealerships and showrooms across the country are explicitly approved and warrantied by the automaker to use E15. General Motors, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, Honda/Acura, Toyota/Lexus, Nissan/Infiniti, Hyundai/Kia, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Mini are among the automakers that continued to clearly approve the use of E15 in 2019 vehicles. And, for the first time, Subaru joined the club by clearly listing E15 as an approved fuel for its 2019 Ascent, Crosstrek and Impreza models.

What’s more, most bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties expire after 36,000 miles or three years (whichever comes first), meaning most vehicles built prior to 2015 are out of warranty anyway. Even if E15 did pose a risk, which it doesn’t, you can’t void a warranty that doesn’t exist.

It’s also more than a little ironic that while the oil industry is drumming up misinformation about E15 and auto warranties, it continues to sell large volumes of low-octane gasoline (85 AKI)—a fuel that is most certainly not approved or warrantied by a single automaker. In fact, the Department of Energy and EPA warn that using gasoline with low octane can “…cause the engine to run poorly and can damage the engine and emissions control system over time. It may also void your warranty.” Hello pot, meet kettle.

But the most compelling rebuttal to API’s nonsensical claims on E15 and “engine damage” is this: Americans have consumed more than 250 million gallons of E15 and driven nearly 6 billion miles on the fuel since it was first introduced in 2012 at a station in Lawrence, Kansas. That’s the equivalent of 250,000 trips around the world. And in that span, there hasn’t been a single proven or documented case of E15 causing engine damage, voiding a warranty, or, in API’s words, “putting consumers at risk.” Not one.

In fact, the only thing put “at risk” by E15 is the petroleum industry’s market share and near-monopoly at the pump.



Author: Geoff Cooper
President and CEO
Renewable Fuels Association
202.289.3835
gcooper@ethanolrfa.org