OMAHA (DTN) -- Just ahead of the midterm elections, the American Petroleum Institute released "push poll" results on Monday that show 79% of 1,001 registered voters have concerns about allowing year-round E15 sales.
The API released the poll results as well as the questions asked in a national telephone poll conducted by Harris Poll during the week of Oct. 12-16.
Frank Macchiarola, API vice president of downstream and industry operations, told reporters on Monday the poll indicates that while the president's decision may be popular, its popularity may change down the road.
"I would say this is an issue that President Trump promised he would deliver on," Macchiarola said. "The substance was something the president promised before. We don't believe this decision is popular with the general public. I think perhaps, post-election, the administration may have time to re-look at this issue. We think the decision is contrary to the law. Oftentimes there are decisions made that may be popular at the moment. In time it may be unpopular when it's implemented."
API conducted what is known as a push poll, which includes questions used to sway public opinion on an issue or political candidate. The question that drew the 79% response, for example, indicated to respondents that E15 "is known to damage engines and most cars cannot use the fuel."
The Renewable Fuels Association, however, said there have been no reported cases of engine damage caused by E15 and that 90% of vehicles can use the 15%, 85% gasoline blend. The EPA has approved the use of E15 in vehicle models 2001 and newer.
The Harris Poll survey on E15 asked the following question: "As you may know, much of the gasoline in the U.S. market currently contains up to a 10% ethanol blend. The EPA is preparing a rule to allow a higher blend of ethanol -– called E15 -– to be sold over the summer months. However, E15 has been shown to damage vehicle engines and fuel systems, and most cars on the road today are not designed to run on E15. How concerned would you be if the EPA expanded the use of E15 in the consumer marketplace?"
Based on the wording of the question, 79% of respondents said they were either somewhat or very concerned.
The API poll also indicates that 83% of registered voters said they are concerned consumers could shoulder increased costs of service stations being "forced" to offer E15.
However, if EPA approves year-round E15, retail stations would not be required to offer the blend.
The question asked by Harris indicated to registered voters that E15 would be mandated: "There are some people who think the government should force service stations to carry higher levels of ethanol such as E15. According to a study by the Petroleum Equipment Institute, service stations might have to buy new storage tanks and pumps and make other investments in their properties to carry E15. These increased expenses could increase the cost of gasoline. How concerned are you that government mandates that force service stations to carry certain types of fuel could end up costing consumers more when they fill up?"
"API's newest poll is so manipulative it can't even be called a 'push poll,'" said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association. "It's more like a 'shove poll' that bullies respondents into answering the questions exactly the way API wants them answered. These results are meaningless and do nothing to objectively represent consumer opinion on E15.
"With the mid-term elections just eight days away, recent polling conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of RFA found that 85% of voters expressing an opinion on E15 said they would be more inclined to vote for a candidate who supported the sale of year-round E15."
Growth Energy spokeswoman Leigh Claffey said the API poll was not a surprise.
"This is the same push poll loaded with misinformation that our critics put out every year," she said in an email to DTN.
"Meanwhile, consumers are demanding cleaner, more affordable options at the pump, and the list of retailers offering E15 continues to grow. Just this month, both Casey's and Cumberland Farms announced plans to make E15 available at more fueling stations, in partnership with 'Prime the Pump,' and stations that sell E15 continue to outperform the competition. The EPA has approved E15 for use in nine out of 10 cars on the road -- and consumers can make their own decisions at the pump, as they have for over 5 billion miles. We applaud President Trump for looking past the bogus attacks and doing the right thing for rural communities and drivers."
President Trump announced during an Oct. 9 rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, that he directed the EPA to move forward with a rulemaking to allow E15 as well as make adjustments to the market for biofuels credits.
The decision was widely celebrated in rural America. EPA announced it intends to release a proposal by February with a goal of finalizing a rule in time for the summer driving season starting in June.
Currently, E15 already is allowed to be sold eight months out of the year.
The U.S. ethanol industry has been pushing the EPA to issue a waiver on E15 for some time, holding out hope the agency would be able to take action that would allow for year-round sales. Federal law forbids the sale of E15 from June 1 to Sept. 15. Currently, E15 sales are restricted in nearly two-thirds of the country during the summer months because of ozone concerns.
Read the poll that has a sampling error of plus or minus 3%, here: https://www.api.org/…
Todd Neeley can be reached at email@example.com
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