Motorcycle lobbying day 'absurd,' E15 illegal for small engines

By Holly Jessen | June 18, 2013

On June 19 an American Motorcycle Association-organized group of motorcyclists will descend on Capitol Hill to talk about the dangers of E15 for use in motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. E15, however, isn’t approved for use in those vehicles.

“The absurdity of the American Motorcycle Association’s rally against E15 boggles the mind,” according to a statement from the Fuels America coalition. “It is a protest against the existence of a useful product not meant for motorcycle use, precisely because you can’t put it in a motorcycle. They might as well protest windshield washer fluid, bubblegum, or any other product found at a gas station that’s not meant to go to in a motorcycle tank.”

The goal of the AMA “Fuel for Thought” lobbying day is to “to help educate lawmakers about the need to research the possible harmful effects of E15 fuel on motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle engines,” according to an AMA press release. Participants are also expected to ask lawmakers to support H.R. 875, a bill introduced by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., which calls for additional scientific and technical research on the use of mid-level ethanol blends. The AMA wants the research to include the effects on motorcycles and ATVs. Those that attend the event will receive a fuel gift card and a gift bag, the announcement said.

On June 18, the Renewable Fuels Association held a conference call to discuss the topic, led by Robert White, RFA’s director of market development and a Harley Davidson motorcycle owner. Also on the call were Bobby Likis, host of the radio auto-talk show Bobby Likis Car Clinic, and Bryan O’Neill, a service director for an auto service shop and a member of the Iron Order International Motorcycle Club.

E15 is not approved for use in motorcycles and is clearly labeled, White said. In addition, the RFA is not aware of any instances of misfueling of motorcycles or autos, involving E15. “We think it’s very obvious what fuel they can or cannot use,” he said.

Currently, E15 is only sold at about 30 locations in six states. Introduction of the fuel has been slow, in part due to efforts of groups like AMA, White said. The RFA listened to the concerns of these groups and as a result the E15 misfueling plan has been changed three times, including most recently in February. EPA approved a new configuration that requires all retailers to have at least one fueling position that is not E15 and also to identify this pump as the one for small engines, lawnmowers and motorcycles. All other fueling positions must be labeled as “for passenger vehicles only.”

Instead of E15, motorcycles can use E10. As a mechanic, motorcycle rider and business manager for his motorcycle club, O’Neill talked about the many calls he has fielded from motorcycle owners and technicians. Motorcycles have zero problems with using E10, he said. 

Likis talked about the many benefits of ethanol, including the fact that the ethanol in E10 helps reduce knock, a problem with motorcycles. The lobbying day doesn’t make sense because E15 was not intended for motorcycle use. “It is a mystery to me why this event is taking place,” he said.

The RFA has released a fact sheet for motorcycle owners that makes it clear that while E10 is approved for use in motorcycles the use of E15 is illegal. The group previously released a similar guide for classic auto owners.