Study: Consumer knowledge of ethanol blends lacking

Awareness and knowledge of how to use high ethanol fuel blends remains relatively unchanged among consumers over the last few years, according to a recent national poll conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).

According to poll results, price continues to drive decisions at the pump and consumers do not pay much attention to pump warning labels. OPEI conducted similar research in 2013 and 2015.

The 2016 poll results show that almost two-thirds (64 percent) of American adults age 18+ who own outdoor power equipment say they either are not sure (42 percent) or do not pay any attention (22 percent) to what type of fuel they are using. In 2015, almost half (45 percent) were not sure what type of fuel they used and one in five (20 percent) did not pay any attention to the type of fuel used.

Gasoline containing greater than ten percent ethanol (E10) can damage or destroy outdoor power equipment, including lawn mowers, chain saws, generators, utility vehicles and other small engine equipment such as motorcycle, snowmobile and boat engines, according to most engine manufacturers.

The poll, conducted in March of this year, shows 66 percent of Americans will use the least expensive grade of gasoline whenever possible, versus 63 percent in 2015 and 71 percent in 2013. In addition, 60 percent of Americans assume that any gas that is sold at a gas station must be safe for all of their vehicles or power equipment versus 57 percent in 2015 and 64 percent in 2013.  By Federal law, it is illegal to use those higher ethanol fuel blends in outdoor power equipment.

“The research continues to prove that Americans are still unaware of the damage that can occur to their outdoor power equipment as a result of misfueling,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI. “There are 100 million legacy outdoor power equipment products in homeowners’ garages, maintenance sheds and facilities across America. The scope of this issue is massive and shows that much more education is needed.”

Attention at the pump
According to the poll, while 85 percent of Americans understand gasoline contains ethanol, price is the overriding priority for the gasoline-consuming public. Among those who drive and buy from a filling station, the vast majority (92 percent) notice the price, but far fewer look at anything else, including ethanol content (24 percent), octane rating (56 percent), and even warning labels (50 percent). Nearly 57 percent, an increase of 6 percentage points over last year, confess that they typically only pay attention to labels on fuel pumps if they read “Warning” or “Do Not Use In…” And 51 percent demonstrate that they don’t give it much thought as they tend to fill up their portable gas tank with the same fuel used to fill their vehicle. This is a three percent increase over last year’s poll findings (48 percent).

“We hope the Environmental Protection Agency will engage in more education as additional blended fuels are introduced in the marketplace. Otherwise, we could continue to see confusion among consumers,” said Kiser. “The outdoor power equipment industry has supported consumer education through our ‘Look Before You Pump’ campaign since 2013. But it’s clear our government needs to do more.”

The March survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll via its Quick Query omnibus product on behalf of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute from March 11-15, 2016, among 2,023 adults ages 18 and 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. The 2013 survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Outdoor Power Equipment Institute from July 31-August 2, 2013, among 2,040 U.S. adults age 18 or older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact:


  1. So with ethanol, WHAT CHOICE DO WE HAVE?! I just spent $150 replacing the carburetor on my lawn mower and did the same a few years ago on my outboard. Here in VA and many other states we have NO CHOICE. Ethanol-free gas is simply not available. It IS available in NC and states farther south from my experience. Once a year I fill up my 5 gallon gas can down there and bring it back north.

    EVERYONE should send their repairs bills to the IOWA state legislature and governor because it is THEIR lobbyists who are pushing this nonsense so they can profit from their corn crop which produces the ethanol. Better yet, hire collection agencies to collect past-due repair bills or tie them up in lawsuits for ruined carburetors. Then maybe someone with some real power can get something done.

    • Steven Vander Griend


      You will need to send that repair to API. It’s not the ethanol damaging hoses fuels and your carburetor, it is the aromatics in gasoline along with high end distillates.

      I will debate this any day of the week since we have done the soak testing, tested real world fuels and done the research.

      I just wrote this below for another website posting so just copying the below comments.


      Boat owners

      As someone who is very optimistic that higher blends of ethanol (higher octane) can benefit the auto industry, consumers and the environment, there is a pathway to protecting small engines and boat owners as well. Many of us in the ethanol industry would like to see E15 and higher blends produced through splash blending. Meaning fuel grade ethanol is simply added to E10. This helps ensure E10 for those with older cars, boats and small engines still have access to E10 and at the same time keep oil refineries from making even a cheaper gasoline blendstock.

      This approach still allows higher blends of ethanol to have access to 90% of the fuel sales all the while keeping E10.

      The issues here have not been proper reported in the media. Small engines, boats and older vehicles don’t have the computer systems to adjust fuel mixtures. Separating the on road issues to that off road issues (includes boats & vintage cars) would provide some clarity to the issues of ethanol blended fuels.

      Today, ethanol’s two key benefits are octane and emissions. If the current level of ethanol being 10% was simply removed from our fuel supply, one should ask what would happen. Fuel prices would go up since oil refineries need to get that octane from somewhere else and this means more aromatic hydrocarbons like benzene and toluene. Here is Wichita KS., we tested every E0 being sold and found 45% more benzene and toluene in the fuel along with a total increase of 25% total aromatics. These aromatics are the key source for most fuel system issues when conducting soak testing. Most fuel hoses, plastic issues and gaskets hardening can be traced back to the varying aromatics in gasoline today.
      Aromatics are also the key reason we have carbon buildup on intake valves or having clogged injectors. Consumers need to know that it’s not the ethanol causing most of the problems, it is aromatics.
      Aromatics in gasoline are the key reason we need detergents and the auto folks are on record that gasoline detergent use is 50% below the recommended levels. One should ask why detergents are never found in test fuels.

      It is time to get the fact straight so that clear and logical solutions can be achieved.

  2. Steven: As “one of many of us in the ethanol industry” as you say, you’re not exactly an objective source for information. The objective ones are those who are fixing all the engines that your ethanol is ruining.

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