Legislation is currently pending in both the House and the Senate that would protect ethanol producers from any liability claims for engine damage due to ethanol fuel problems.
The issue of ethanol damage is unavoidably linked in the minds of consumers with the newly passed increase in ethanol from 10% to 15%. A 50% increase in ethanol means 50% more damage. Okay maybe not 50% more (it's not a linear relationship), but consumers are quite right to be concerned. They've already seen the problems and the damage to small engines that ethanol in gas has caused over the last couple of years.So it should be heartening that Congress is stepping up to protect concerned consumers by proposing new rules that will.....protect ethanol producers from any liability problems from damaged engines and equipment. The bill, sponsored by Illinois Republican John Shimkus, protects ethanol producers and the marketers of ethanol gas from product liability as long as the ethanol they're making and selling meets federal regulations for quality, labeling and storage.
The producers and sellers of ethanol are right to be concerned about the issue. The government has approved this new fuel but consumers are hopping mad about what it's doing to their engines. For this reason, the ethanol producers have gone on record that if 15% ethanol is going to be the law of the land, they want protection. And it appears they're going to get it.
Naturally, consumer groups aren't happy about the shifting of risk from the producers to the consumers. And it is the consumers who find themselves between the rock and the hard place. The EPA has rules in place prohibiting E15 from being used in older vehicles before 2001 and in small engines like lawn equipment. That's all well and good, provided their local gas station is going to offer alternatives. And we all know many small stations won't be able to do that, just like these stations can't currently offer both E10 and ethanol free gas.
This post was published on April 24, 2012 and was updated on July 1, 2016.