Motorcyclist Association expresses concerns about ethanol increases

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118478625325701.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of American Motorcyclist Association’, ‘The American Motorcyclist Association has concerns about the possible increase in the percentage of ethanol in fuel. Motorcycle engines are currently certified to run only on a 10 percent blend.‘);

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has expressed concern about unanticipated consequences of proposals that might allow gas stations to increase the level of ethanol in the fuel they sell.

Pump gasoline in the United States can contain up to 10 percent ethanol, which is used to increase octane, reduce carbon monoxide emissions and provide an alternative to petroleum-based fuels.

But now, the state of Minnesota is seeking permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow the sale of fuel that includes 20 percent ethanol. And that has led to concerns about the effects on motorcycle engines, which manufacturers say are only certified to run on fuels containing the current 10 percent blend.

The difference could be significant, since burning ethanol creates more heat than conventional gasoline, which has the potential to damage air-cooled motorcycle engines. In addition, fuel systems on bikes may be susceptible to corrosive effects of higher concentrations of ethanol in gas. And while ethanol helps reduce carbon monoxide levels in engine exhaust, it can also increase the levels of oxides of nitrogen, one of the components of smog.

“The AMA supports the use of cleaner-burning fuels, but we are concerned about premature engine damage or failure while a bike is being ridden on a highway if the allowable level of ethanol is raised to 20 percent,” said Imre Szauter, AMA legislative affairs specialist. “We are also concerned about any degradation in performance, fuel economy and rideability that may result from the long-term use of blended fuels with greater than 10 percent ethanol.”

The proposal under consideration comes from Minnesota, but the AMA notes that an EPA waiver would open the door to the sale of 20 percent ethanol blends across the country, without any evaluation of the long-term consequences. With the limited number of choices at gas stations, that could force out existing blends and leave some riders without a suitable fuel choice for their vehicles.

“Until studies show that a 20 percent ethanol blend won’t damage motorcycle or ATV engines, and won’t make motorcycles emit more nitrogen oxides than are allowed by the EPA, the AMA can’t support the Minnesota proposal,” Szauter said.

The AMA is a member of AllSAFE, the Alliance for a Safe Alternative Fuels Environment, a group formed to ensure new bio-based fuels such as ethanol are promoted in a thoughtful manner. AllSAFE is composed of associations that represent consumer and commercial users of ethanol blends, manufacturers of boats, vehicles, engines and equipment, and retailers who sell gasoline and ethanol-fuel blends.

For more information about ethanol-fuel blends, go to

Founded in 1924, the AMA is a non-profit organization with more than 280,000 members. The Association’s purpose is to pursue, protect and promote the interests of motorcyclists, while serving the needs of its members. For more information, visit the AMA Web site at

from the July 18-24, 2007, issue

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