GIE+Expo buzzes about fuel, but not because of prices

November 1, 2012 -  By

Though the official show attendance figures have yet to be released, exhibitors at the GIE+Expo, held in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 24-26, reported a busier event than in the past few years. Organizers and observers attribute the traffic to a few factors, including a new “dealer day” format on the show’s opening day, 80-degree temperatures on day two and cold, rainy weather on the last day, which drove everyone inside, making the aisles feel crowded. Plus, show partner the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) reported registration for its Green Industry Conference was up 20 percent over last year.

What was the buzz around the conference and show? You couldn’t avoid talk of E15 fuel and the effects it will have on outdoor power equipment. E15 is fuel that’s 85 percent gasoline and 15 percent ethanol.

Many landscape and lawn care companies that operate gas-powered equipment already believe E10 has increased maintenance costs on their equipment. Now, with the advent of E15, they fear their workers will inadvertently fuel their small engines with a fuel they’re not designed to withstand, and potentially cause damage and void their warranties.

“Until recently, E15 was a “hypothetical problem,” Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), told Landscape Management. Now, it’s a reality. E15 debuted in Kansas this summer and is expected to be offered in gas stations in other Midwest states this fall and winter.

One of the main problems, Kiser said, is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency isn’t effectively communicating what he calls a “paradigm shift” in what Americans can put in the tank.

“It’s always been, whatever I put in my car, I can put in the can,” he said. “That’s no longer the case, and the warning label is a 3-in. by 3-in. square, only printed in English.”

The agency isn’t doing a good job telling consumers what E15 can be used for and what it can’t– and that it cannot go in the gas can.

“A lot depends on how E15’s retailed, and it’s not consistent,” Kiser said.

While OPEI and several other groups appeal their rejected lawsuit against EPA, OPEI plans to ramp up industry education efforts.

Meanwhile, several GIE+Expo suppliers exhibited premixed fuel options in a variety of sizes to make it easy for contractors to know they’re getting the right fuel into their machines without having to rely on their operators to pay attention at the pump.

Another possibility is that E15 uncertainty will drive some companies to try equipment powered by alternative fuels.

“We see an expansion in the market for propane and natural gas products, where there is some certainty,” Kiser said.

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Marisa Palmieri

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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