New data shows many Americans may be unwittingly shortening the lifespan of lawnmowers, and other equipment because they remain ill equipped for newer fuel options at the gas pump.


The April survey, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, polled over 4,000 Americans ages 18 and older. It found consumers continue to choose gasoline on price, and do not pay much attention to pump warning labels.


“The way we fuel in this country is whatever is at the pump — since the beginning of time — can go in the car, the bass boat, the generator, the chainsaw and the mower,” said OPEI CEO and President Kris Kiser. “It was always safe, especially for your non-road products. You buy the cheapest gas, put in the can.


“But that’s going to change now.”


On May 29 the Environmental Protection Agency announced targets for its Renewable Fuel Standard, which calls for increases in blends over the next several years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on the same day it would invest $100 million to install new blender pumps at fuel stations across the U.S.


“There is this paradigm shift,” Kiser said. “There is no education at all with the exception of that little attention label that is in very fine print telling consumers what they can and can’t use the fuel on. It is not adequate.”


Retail pumps distributing fuel with greater than 10 percent ethanol are required to post a label reading “Attention: Use only in 2001 or newer passenger vehicles or in flex fuel vehicles.”


The Electronic Code of Federal Regulations shows fuel containing greater than 10 percent ethanol can damage or destroy outdoor power and small-engine equipment. By Federal law, it is illegal to use those higher ethanol fuel blends in outdoor power equipment.


OPEI survey results show 63 percent of people choose the least expensive option possible, and less than half check for warning labels at all. An OPEI press release said the industry trying educate consumers though means like the website but “the EPA could — and should — do more,” Kiser said.


Local Effect


The Kansan checked multiple pumps around Newton on Tuesday. Only the pumps at Casey’s General Store, 1815 W First Street, had any ethanol notification as the station does offer 10 percent ethanol blend.


“10 percent is fine,” Kiser said.


He said greater challenges would come when more ethanol is added in the future. More than current motors can handle.


Don Ward at S & D Small Engine Repair, 617 N Meridian, Newton, sees benefits in ethanol.


“It burns cleaner,” Ward said. “And it is a lot better for someone sitting behind exhaust especially."


Ward did note the disadvantages though too. Higher blends attract water.


“The water causes a crystal to form inside the carburetor that plugs up even the brass jets,” he said.


Kevin League at Bumper to Bumper, 335 N Meridian, noted that he had seen the lifespan of more seasonal and sporadic use equipment decrease in recent years.


“What we used to do every winter was make sure everything was full, so it didn’t get moisture in it,” League said. “What we found out this spring is that we had a lot of stuff that didn’t run very well.”


Kiser said it is more important now to empty small engines completely after use to avoid separation between fuel and water in the tank.


That is exactly what League said they have begun doing at Bumper to Bumper.


Ward said he would welcome even more ethanol and higher blends if engines could handle it.


Kiser said the power equipment industry would welcome that change.


“My guys are consumer products companies: Toro, Kawasaki and on and on,” Kiser said. “We can run them on anything. We would love to design and build a new product for a new fuel and sell a bunch more stuff. All we care about is the product performing reliably and safely by matching the fuel to the products, which are built by law.”