Is it a huge conspiracy between the United States government and the motor vehicle manufacturers to make motor vehicles sold in the US in the last few years obsolete?  The FDA admits that the new mandates for increasing the ethanol content in gasoline will wreak havoc on engines built to run on gasoline. Motorcyclists, as well as power boats, and ATV riders will be the most vulnerable to the new standards. Engines for use in cars and trucks capable of burning higher concentrations of ethanol have been on the market for years. It is only the thrifty and/or poor who are left out having less up-to-date cars and trucks that can not run on the new 15% ethanol. Recent motorcycles, power boats and ATVs sold in the US do not have the redesigned engines capable of burning higher levels of ethanol. They are left out altogether.  Was this an oversight? Is anybody going to pay attention and do something about it? I think not…

The AMA knows what is happening and opposes E15 and any fuel containing more than ten percent ethanol (E10) because it can cause engine and fuel system failure to your motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle, and can void manufacturers’ warranties. The AMA looks out for our rights and alerted members to the problem. I wrote a letter to the EPA and President Obama protesting that higher ethanol blends will wreak havoc on older car and truck engines as well as motorcycle engines not built to run on higher ethanol blends.

His reply was essentially tough luck. He said that the mandate to increase ethanol was passed to clean up the atmosphere. That is bullshit; these mandates for increasing ethanol production using corn were originally passed in 1970 by President Bush so that (he said) we would not be so reliant on foreign sources of energy. Contrary to popular belief, scientific analysis — including analysis from the Environmental Protection Agency — proves that the net greenhouse gas impact of corn ethanol is much worse than that of gasoline. Be that as it may: The corn farmers are raking it in.

Just about every gallon of gas pumped today contains as much as 10 percent domestically produced ethanol and that amount is about to increase. Gummed-up fuel systems, damaged tanks and phase separation caused by stray moisture infiltrating fuel systems have plagued many consumers since this mixture debuted, and the problems will only get worse if government policy to increase the proportion of ethanol to gasoline is implemented. It is already happening and will be the norm because corn farmers have already increased production of bio fuels in accordance to government mandates.

Gasoline diluted with ethanol is a perfectly acceptable motor fuel when it’s stored properly, dispensed promptly and burned in vehicles and power equipment designed to handle it. The problem is that older cars, almost all motorcycles, ATVs and power boats are not built to safely use these new higher ethanol blends. Essentially ethanol added to gasoline can destroy your motorcycle’s engine. It has to be stored in a closed system which is not the case for motorcycles and burned promptly so it does not sit around for any length of time. Who has not left gasoline in their tanks between rides? That is not even taking into account the corrosive effects of this fuel on your engine’s fuel delivery system.

Most water infiltration is from condensation. As the temperature in a tank changes, air has to be vented in and out or the tank will bulge or split. Incoming air carries moisture. When the H2O in the gas gets above a critical percentage—its saturation point—all of the water and alcohol drops out and settles into the bottom of the tank. This is phase separation; the various components of the fuel are no longer a homogeneous mixture. Worse yet, the gasoline remaining above the water probably lost three octane points, because today’s gasoline relies heavily on the high-octane equivalence (130) of alcohol to achieve its octane rating. It’s also missing a bunch of additives that stayed in the alcohol—so the major problem with higher concentrations of ethanol is that if it is stored in your vehicle for any length of time it releases moisture that can gum up your engine. Practically this means that you would have to drain the gas tank and dispose of it as hazardous waste after each ride.

They say that highly tuned two-stroke engines will run leaner (and consequently hotter) on the lower Btu/gallon alcohol mix, potentially leading to melted pistons and scuffed cylinder walls. Alcohol will also scour varnish and deposits out of the fuel system that have remained in place for years, which will eventually wind up in the filter or main jet, choking off the engine’s fuel supply. Worse yet, the alcohol itself ­oxidizes in the tank and produces a tenacious brown glop that’s far more damaging to fuel systems than the ­varnish we’re used to seeing in pure petroleum fuels. In warmer weather, you can see varnish starting to form within a month of dispensing fresh fuel into a vehicle tank or storage can. Some say that owners should drain the tank, running the engine till it quits and then fogging the inside of the tank and the cylinder with oil to prevent corrosion. Even of that means that you will be burning oil like a two stroke? Whatever…

Alcohol is corrosive and can degrade plastic, rubber or even metal parts in the fuel system that weren’t engineered to use alcohol-bearing fuel which is the case with older cars and almost all motorcycles and ATVs. To burn higher blends of ethanol you will need to replace your parts with corrosion-resistant tanks, alcohol-tolerant rubber lines, seals and fuel-pump diaphragms, and plastic fuel-system parts that won’t swell up in the presence of alcohol.

Even the EPA admits that there are problems using bio-fuels. According to the EPA, “ethanol impacts motor vehicles in two primary ways. First … ethanol leans the ratio (increases the proportion of oxygen relative to hydrocarbons) which can lead to increased exhaust gas temperatures and potentially increase incremental deterioration of emission control hardware and performance over time, possibly causing catalyst failure. Second, ethanol can cause materials compatibility issues, which may lead to other component failures.”


We need to rise up and demand accountability from our government. The Federal Trade Commission is recommending more labeling at the gas pump as its solution to the problem. But the American Motorcyclist Association believes that is not enough. It wrote a memo to AMA members to defeat a measure  to label blends of more than 10% ethanol. Read this and you can get an idea of what is in store for us if nothing is done to ensure that the 10% and 0% blends are made available in the US market.

The Federal Trade Commission issued a rule proposal to provide requirements for rating and certifying ethanol blends and requirements for labeling blends of more than 10 percent ethanol.

But this rule exempts the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s E15-approved label.

This rule is for an additional label to be placed on the fuel pump “in response to the emergence of ethanol blends as a retail fuel and the likely increased availability of such blends.”

With this rule, it only means gasoline with higher blends of ethanol will emerge into the marketplace.

The AMA believes this proposal will cause even more confusion given the events surrounding the rollout of E15 into the marketplace. The AMA opposes E15 and any fuel containing more than ten percent ethanol because it can cause engine and fuel system failure to your motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle, and can void manufacturers’ warranties.

 “In motorcycles and non-road products , EPA raised engine-failure concerns from overheating.”

The FTC is seeking public comments now on the rule proposal that calls for the additional label to identify higher ethanol blended fuels. You can tell the agency how this proposal will cause even more confusion, given the events surrounding the rollout of E15 into the marketplace.

The AMA does not believe this new label will do what it is intended to do – keep users from misfueling with higher ethanol blended fuels. It simply does not provide clear direction. Another label on a blender pump that already has many labels will not be sufficient to avoid misfueling and could be easily overlooked.

The proposed rule provides no direction on where on the pump the label should be located. Moreover, the FTC is proposing that the label be rounded to the nearest factor of 10. How will this accurately inform the consumer of the type of fuel called for by the vehicle owner’s manual? Will a fuel containing 11 percent to 14 percent ethanol be labeled as 10 percent ethanol? Is the FTC aware that manufacturers’ warranties are valid only for the use of fuel containing 10 percent ethanol by volume or less?

Help protect 22 million motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles in America — and the riders who depend on their safe operation — from inadvertent misfueling. Tell the FTC you want safe access to fuel for motorcycles and ATVs!”


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  1. Robert Tweedy says:

    Very good information about ethanol. Great photos too. I never knew anything about ethanol before reading your post. I hope you get proper labeling on the gas pumps. Sounds like you need proper access to fuel for ATV’s and motorcycles. Wish you good luck in your desires about ethanol.

  2. Diana Tweedy says:

    Older trucks and cars are not designed to run on more than 10% ethanol either, and it could lead to problems if they are miss-fueled with 15% ethanol. Some people say that you should not put ethanol of any concentration in these vehicles.

  3. Bob S. says:

    My BMW motocycle got ruined fuel injection pump thanks to ethanol. Bike had 96 miles, when pump died after winter storage… Manufacturer did not replace the pump under the warranty, stating that warranty requires the motocycle was ridden less than a 100 miles a month…winter too???? Absurd! In assumption – BMW has a problem – did not design the pump to resist an alcohol – in Europe ethanol is up 3% added. I rest My case…

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