Deliberately misleading headline of the week: “Why is the Gov’t Mandating E15 if Big Ethanol is Unwilling to Back it?”

 Just classic. According to Consumer Reports, the corn ethanol lobby has introduced legislation that would:

 “ … leave consumers on the hook for any product damage caused by E15 …Rather than trying to solve the problem of preventing damage from E15 and easing its transition into the marketplace, this bill would simply sweep aside all liability for everyone but the consumer,”

Our Take:

E15 is the most tested fuel in history. Because it is an outstanding motor fuel, it is currently approved for use by EPA in light duty gasoline-engine motor vehicles built in 2001 or after.

The legislation referred to by CR and this blogger, the Domestic Fuel Protection Act, is not in any way, shape or form a comment on the quality of E15. It is a comment on what it means to try to sell a product, any product, in our litigious society. The proposed law states that since E15 is thoroughly tested and approved for a certain class of vehicles (about 65 percent of America’s light duty vehicle fleet), since fueling station equipment is all approved to handle the fuel, and where stations post obvious labeling and otherwise instruct consumers about what vehicles E15 is approved for use in, if some fine citizen decides to use E15 in his 1980 gas-powered weed trimmer and the small engine machine (for which E15 is not approved) breaks down (couldn’t be that the trimmer is old, or that the operator never replaced the oil, etc) this law would shield the gas station owner and the ethanol producer from a frivolous lawsuit brought by the consumer.

Caveat Emptor–buyer beware–is a line that has to be drawn somewhere, unless you want the grocery store to send an agent to your house to make sure you cook your ground beef at 160 degrees for the minimum required time period to assure destruction of harmful bacteria. Who’s responsible for damages if you put a 200-watt flood light into a lamp rated for 60 watt bulbs or less which has been clearly labeled by the manufacturer?  We think motorists want the chance to choose E15 and a common sense approach to liability will help to make that happen.

It’s also important to note that the EPA ruling is not a mandate, but simply a seal of approval allowing E15 to be sold as a gasoline blend. The reason consumers will choose it is quality and price–if it maintains a competitive stance, in both these aspects–and we know it will–it will win consumers. Since it works as well as a gasoline blend, the fact that the ethanol component is renewable, that it is not imported from unstable regimes who declare themselves to be enemies of the West–these characteristics make E15 an easy choice when you pull up to the pump.

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