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OPEI: Consumers remain ill-equipped for newer fuel options at the pump

Consumers are ill-equipped to make smart decisions about new gasoline choices entering the marketplace, such as fuel blends greater than 10-percent ethanol, according to two recent national polls conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). The polls revealed that Americans continue to choose gasoline based on price, and do not pay much attention to pump warning labels.

Fuels containing greater than 10-percent ethanol can damage or destroy outdoor power equipment, including lawn mowers, chain saws, generators, utility vehicles and other small-engine products, as well as motorcycles, snowmobiles and boats, according to most engine manufacturers. Yet, the polls, conducted in April and May 2015, show 63 percent of Americans will use the least-expensive grade of gasoline whenever possible. In addition, nearly three quarters (74 percent) of Americans say they are not at all sure if it’s legal or illegal to put high-level ethanol gas (i.e. anything higher than 10-percent ethanol) into small-engine products. By federal law, it is illegal to use those higher-ethanol-fuel blends in outdoor power equipment.

“Unfortunately, decision-making at the fuel pump is getting more complicated, as higher-ethanol-blended fuels are becoming available,” said Kris Kiser, CEO and president of OPEI. “The research shows that the American public is woefully unaware and uneducated about ethanol-blended fuels, and how to use them.”

On May 29, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its latest targets for its Renewable Fuel Standard, which determines ethanol-blending requirements for the nation’s fuel supply. The standard calls for increases in fuel blending over the next several years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also announced on May 29 that it would invest $100 million into infrastructure, installing new blender pumps at fuel stations throughout the United States.

“The American public is confused by blended fuels in the marketplace today,” said Kiser. “It’s sad to see our government investing $100 million into infrastructure to bring new fuels to communities across America, while allocating no funding to educating the public about them.”

Inadequate fuel pump labeling

In the surveys, Americans were asked about gasoline pump labeling, and consumers confessed they do not pay much attention to labels at the pump. Less than one-quarter (23 percent) state that they notice the ethanol content on the fuel pump. Less than half (47 percent) of Americans admit they check the fuel pump for any warning labels when fueling up their cars at gas stations.

When testing awareness language, the research found that consumers are not as likely to notice labeling with the word “attention” as they would labels with words like “warning” or “caution.” Six in 10 (60 percent) Americans prefer “Warning: Use only in 2001-or-newer passenger vehicles or in flex-fuel vehicles” while 13 percent prefer “caution” and 10 percent prefer “attention.” More than nine in 10 (91 percent) say they would be likely to pay closer attention to the fuel pump after seeing a label with this language.

The current EPA-mandated label on fuel pumps reads “Attention: Use only in 2001-or-newer passenger vehicles or in flex-fuel vehicles.”

“Now more than ever, it is important for consumers to pay attention at the pump, so they can avoid misfueling outdoor power equipment,” said Kiser. “We hope EPA will take steps to improve consumer awareness at gasoline filling stations. As an industry, we have supported consumer education through our Look Before You Pump (www.lookbeforeyoupump.com) campaign. But the EPA could — and should — do more.”

Survey methodology
The April 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 April 23-27, 2015, among 2,015 adults ages 18 and older. The May survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of OPEI May 15-19, 2015, among 2,090 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample, and therefore, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

For more information, visit www.opei.org.

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