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Survey: Americans still confused about ethanol, fuel choices

A new nationwide research study of over 2,000 adults 18+ conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute has found that Americans seem to remain confused about new fuel choices at the pump and their appropriate usage.

Consumers mis-fueling their engine products also remains a concern. This year's poll shows more consumers have incorrectly used an E15 or higher ethanol fuel in an engine not designed for it this year compared to 2015 (five percent this year vs. three percent in 2015).

The National Marine Manufacturers Association has partnered with the OPEI since 2014 on it's "Look Before You Pump" campaign to help educate consumers on proper fueling and pointing out that the U.S. government has said it is illegal to use gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol in boats, outdoor power equipment and other small engines.

The OPEI survey found that more Americans who own outdoor power equipment are paying attention to the type of fuel they use this year than in years past, with 44 percent saying they pay attention (compared with 36 percent in 2016 and 35 percent in 2015). Additionally, awareness of ethanol in gasoline seems to remain steady, with 84 percent, overall, reporting they are aware of that fact this year compared to 85 percent in 2016 and 84 percent in 2015.

"While most people seem to be aware that there is ethanol in gasoline, the poll results show increased mis-fueling. This raises big concerns as different ethanol content fuels become available in the marketplace," said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI.

Over three in five Americans assume that any gas sold at fueling stations is safe for all of their cars as well as other, non-road engine products, like boats and mowers (63 percent in 2017, up from 60 percent in 2016 and 57 percent in 2015). This year's poll also shows roughly two thirds of Americans believe higher ethanol blends of gas are safe to use in any engine (31 percent).

"Hundreds of millions of pieces of legacy outdoor power equipment products are in use today that are designed and warranted to run on E10 or less fuel. Remember E15 is unlawful to use, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). With higher ethanol blends available for sale, such as E15, E30 and E85, it's up to all of us to educate consumers about selecting the right fuel for the right product. Consumers can no longer assume that what goes in their truck or car is right for their lawn mower, snow blower, chainsaw, generator or other piece of outdoor power equipment," said Kiser.

But concern about selecting the right fuel for the right product seems to be far from the minds of consumers. Price seems to continue to drive choice when purchasing gas. Most Americans (69 percent) admit to choosing the least expensive gas whenever possible (up from 63 percent in 2015).

Only one quarter of Americans (25 percent) notice the ethanol content at the pump while just over half (53 percent) take note of the octane rating.

Other findings include:

  • Just over half of Americans (55 percent in 2017, up from 50 percent in 2015) say they always read the labels on fuel pumps.
  • The same proportion (55 percent) claim they typically only pay attention to warning labels on the pumps if they say "Warning" or "Do Not Use In…"
  • Only 7 percent think that it's illegal to use higher ethanol blends of fuel, such as E15, in engines such as those in boats, mowers, chainsaws, snow mobiles, generators and other engine products.

Another fueling mistake committed by roughly one third of outdoor power equipment owners (31 percent) is placing equipment into long-term storage without draining the leftover fuel out first. However, on the upside, 33 percent claim they have mixed fuel stabilizer in with the fuel for their outdoor power equipment. Other findings along this vein:

  • Nearly half of outdoor power equipment owners (48 percent) said they would put fuel that is more than 30 days old in their equipment.
  • The majority of outdoor power equipment owners (80 percent) say they always use a safe container when storing gasoline for their equipment.
  • Just over a third (35 percent) label the fuel storage container they use for their outdoor power equipment with the date they purchased the fuel.

Survey Methodology

The 2017 survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Outdoor Power Equipment Institute from February 27 - March 1, 2017 among 2,186 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The 2016 survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Outdoor Power Equipment Institute from March 11-15, 2016 among 2,023 U.S. adults age 18 or older. The 2015 survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Outdoor Power Equipment Institute from April 23-27, 2015 among 2,015 U.S. adults age 18 or older. These online surveys are not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodologies, including weighting variables, please contact Ami Neiberger-Miller, ami@fourleafpr.com.

One comment

  1. There should be WARNING labels CLEARLY indicating on boat motors and outdoor equipment NOT TO USE ENTHANOL fuel in these products. The marine industry is irresponsible when not labeling their products accordingly. I personally have had to replace carburetors on 2 outboards and other equipment.

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