Consumers Say E15 Warning Labels Are Ineffective

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NMMA and its partners developed a prototype label (shown here) incorporating elements that consumers rated most effective, including use of icons, red color, and clear language.

NMMA and its partners developed a prototype label (shown here) incorporating elements that consumers rated most effective, including use of icons, red color, and clear language.

A new poll shows that most consumers find the current E15 warning labels at gas pumps ineffective in communicating the dangers of using E15 — fuel blended with 10.5 to 15 percent ethanol — with certain small engines.

The national survey, which was led by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the American Motorcyclist Association, and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, polled people between ages 20 and 65 to determine how aware they were that E15 was dangerous and in fact illegal for use in boats, motorcycles, lawn mowers and off-road vehicles.

Only 18.25 percent of respondents found the current labeling system effective; they were four times more likely to prefer prototypes that used direct language and visuals to convey the fuel’s risks, according to the NMMA.

More than 77 percent said red was the best color to use, rather than the yellow labels currently used. Over 80 percent said using icons made the labels more effective.

Around 70 percent said inconsistent or hidden E15 label placement made the labels less effective overall.

"If there's one thing apparent from the latest findings, it's that we should be doing more to educate and warn consumers about the potential hazards of E15 — not obscuring this information and increasing the likelihood that people will unknowingly incur costly damages," said NMMA government and legal affairs senior vice president Nicole Vasilaros in a statement.

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The study was conducted as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers changing or removing the labels altogether to encourage greater use of the biofuel.

"The results of this survey couldn’t be clearer: the current warning label does not adequately educate consumers on the potential hazards of E15," said Adam Fortier-Brown, government rrelations manager for the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, in a statement. "Updating this label to be more effective is long overdue. Doing so would provide a safer fueling experience for consumers so they do not unwittingly void their warranties and reduce the longevity and fuel efficiency of their engines. Our industry urges EPA to address this need by implementing a more effective label with standard placement on pumps to adequately educate consumers on current regulations."

As the EPA looks toward new labeling regulations, groups including NMMA and MRAA have called on the federal government to solicit expert advice and consumer label research and consider their input from the survey.

Particularly at a time when many new consumers are entering the outdoor recreation and the boating market for the first time, improving education and awareness on fuel blends should be a top priority area for the EPA, the NMMA said.

"As a representative of the recreational boating industry, making sure our boaters and the broader public have the proper information they need to make decisions at the gas pump has been a major focus of NMMA and it will continue to be in the days ahead.” Vasilaros said.

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