ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Consumers are ill-equipped to make smart decisions about new gasoline choices entering the marketplace, such as fuel blends greater than ten percent ethanol, show two recent national polls conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). According to poll results, Americans continue to choose gasoline on price, and do not pay much attention to pump warning labels.

Fuels containing greater than 10% ethanol can damage or destroy outdoor power equipment, including lawn mowers, chain saws, generators, utility vehicles and other small engine equipment such as motorcycle, snow mobile and boat engines, according to most engine manufacturers. Yet, the polls, conducted in April and May, show 63% percent of Americans will use the least expensive grade of gasoline whenever possible. In addition, nearly three quarters (74%) of Americans say they are not at all sure if it’s legal or illegal to put high level ethanol gas (i.e., anything higher than 10% ethanol) into small engine products. By federal law, it is illegal to use those higher ethanol fuel blends in outdoor power equipment.

“Unfortunately, decision-making at the fuel pump is getting more complicated, as higher ethanol blended fuels are becoming available,” says Kris Kiser, CEO and President of OPEI. “The research shows that the American public is woefully unaware and uneducated about ethanol blended fuels, and how to use them.”

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its latest targets for their Renewable Fuel Standard, which determines ethanol blending requirements for the nation’s fuel supply. The standard calls for increases in fuel blending over the next several years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also announced today that it would invest $100 million into infrastructure installing new blender pumps at fuel stations throughout the United States.

“The American public is confused by blended fuels in the marketplace today,” said Kiser. “It’s sad to see our government investing $100 million into infrastructure to bring new fuels to communities across America, while allocating no funding to educating the public about them.”

Inadequate Fuel Pump Labeling

In the surveys, Americans were asked about gasoline pump labeling, and consumers confessed they do not pay much attention to labels at the pump. Less than one quarter (23%)  state that they notice the ethanol content on the fuel pump. Less than half (47%) of Americans admit they check the fuel pump for any warning labels when fueling up their cars at gas stations.

When testing awareness language, the research found that consumers are not as likely to notice labeling with the word “attention” as they would labels with words like “warning” or “caution.” Six in ten (60%) Americans prefer “Warning: Use only in 2001 or newer passenger vehicles or in flex fuel vehicles” while 13% prefer “caution” and 10% prefer “attention.” Over nine in ten (91%) say they would be likely to pay closer attention to the fuel pump after seeing a label with this language.

The current EPA-mandated label on fuel pumps reads “Attention: Use only in 2001 or newer passenger vehicles or in flex fuel vehicles.”

“Now more than ever, it is important for consumers to pay attention at the pump, so they can avoid mis-fueling outdoor power equipment,” said Kiser. “We hope EPA will take steps to improve consumer awareness at gasoline filling stations. As an industry, we have supported consumer education through our Look Before You Pump ( campaign. But the EPA could—and should—do more.”