The AAA says the Environmental Protection Agency and gasoline retailers should halt the sale of E15, a new ethanol-gasoline blend that could damage millions of vehicles and void car warranties.
AAA, which will issue its warning today, says just 12 million of more than 240 million cars, trucks and SUVs in use have manufacturers' approval for E15. Flex-fuel vehicles, 2012 and newer GM vehicles, 2013 Fords and 2001 and newer Porsches are the exceptions, according to AAA.
"It is clear that millions of Americans are unfamiliar with E15, which means there is a strong possibility many may improperly use E15 and damage their vehicle," AAA chief Robert Darbelnet told USA TODAY on Thursday.
BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and VW have said their warranties will not cover fuel-related claims caused by E15. Ford, Honda, Kia, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo have said E15 use will void warranties, says Darbelnet, citing potential corrosive damage to fuel lines, gaskets and engine components.
Gasoline blended with 10% ethanol has become standard at most of the nation's 160,000 gas stations, spurred by federal mandates to use more renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Pushed by ethanol producers, the Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of E15 -- a 15% blend -- over objections from automakers and the oil industry.
E15 has been available at a handful of Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska stations since summer. EPA stickers affixed to gas pumps say it's safe for use in virtually all vehicles 2001 and newer. (USA TODAY made repeated requests for EPA comment.)
The AAA -- in an unusual warning for a travel organization -- says E15 sales should be stopped until there is more testing, more effective pump labels and more extensive consumer education.
Bob Dinneen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, says E15 is safe for virtually all post-2001 vehicles. "We think the (EPA) warning label should be sufficient," he says.
But a three-year study by automakers and the oil industry shows E15 was linked to engine and fuel system failures, says Bob Greco of the American Petroleum Institute.
The National Association of Convenience Stores says it's worried about E15 damaging gas station pumps and fuel lines, as well as consumer liability issues. "There is too much uncertainty related to consumer demand and liability protection," spokesman Jeff Lenard says.
Scott Zaremba, who has sold E15 at some of his eight Kansas Zarco 66 stations since July, says customers have had no problems. He's fueling his 2001 Chevy pickup with it. "E15 burns well and has great performance. I don't see any issues -- yet."
(c) Copyright 2012 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
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