So the battle over E15 continues. Last week the Environmental Protection Agency approved the first applications to produce a gasoline blend with 15% ethanol and 20 ethanol makers so far have registered to sell it. While this is a significant movement toward widespread distribution of E15, a number of hurdles remain to be cleared. Not the least of which is convincing petroleum marketers to sell it at gas stations.

The new blend would be approved for 2001 and newer vehicles, but opponents are concerned about the implication of confused consumers mistakenly using it in older model cars, lawnmowers, hand-held equipment and other small engines not equipped with the updated parts required for the new blend.

The misfueling could be out of confusion or it could be due to the temptation of a lower pump price. Whatever the case, the impact on engines not equipped to handle the new blend is the same.

On a recent road trip visiting manufacturers in Nebraska, I admittedly, and somewhat embarrassingly, froze at the pump when stopping to refuel my rental car before returning it. The station I pulled into offered E15 and the labeling on the fuel tank of the newer model rental car was not exactly straight-forward about what could or should be put in the tank. I rolled the dice, took my best-educated guess and just hoped if I had guessed wrong that whatever was going to go wrong with the engine wouldn’t happen in the mile or so between me and the airport.

Some manufacturers are already taking proactive steps in an attempt to educate consumers about E15. For example, in a recent Live Tweet event for Briggs & Stratton, CEO Todd Teske mentioned they have concerns about consumers understanding the true impact of this new fuel on their engines and said the Briggs’ online Answer Center is getting a fair amount of questions on the subject.Outdoor Power Equipment Institute President Kris Kiser, in an interview with the Kansas City Star said, “We know people will misfuel. This is a train wreck.”

Similarly, Husqvarna launched the Ethanol Challenge, an online quiz designed to help educate consumers on the effects of ethanol and how to avoid ethanol-related engine issues.

What are you doing to help educate your rural customers about ethanol blends and their potential impact?

In our “2012 Equipment Forecast & Business Outlook Report” one dealer said he’s seen measurable results because he has his parts, service and the sales team recommend a fuel stabilizer to every customer that comes to the counter. He’s actually been able to attribute an uptick in his dollars-per-transaction since implementing this standard.

While the widespread availability of E15 is nowhere near a certainty, being proactive to educate your customer base and help them avoid the potential pitfalls of ethanol blends is another great opportunity to be a resource for your customers and to give them information they’re unlikely to get strolling the aisles of the big box store. It’ll not only help cement that bond, it can also lead to an increase in your bottom line.

Drop me a line at and let us know what, if any, impact you’ve seen from ethanol blends in your area and what you’re doing to educate the market and your staff.

Michael Ellis,
Rural Lifestyle Dealer