Since modern gas stations often have single-hose pumps fed from multiple underground tanks, the rule potentially affects all consumers, not just those who use E15 (which the EPA says is safe for automobiles built after 20001).
Regardless of the fuel you’re buying, if it’s dispensed from a single-hose E15 pump, you need to buy a minimum of four gallons. Regular unleaded? Four gallons. Middle-grade unleaded? Four gallons. Premium unleaded? You guessed it - four gallons.
That’s generally fine for automobiles, but what if you ride a motorcycle with a three-gallon fuel tank? Where, exactly, will that extra gallon of unleaded gasoline fit? What about homeowners looking to fill a two gallon gas can for the mower? Will you need to buy another can, just to comply?
Since gas pumps have an automatic shut off feature to prevent spills, we wonder how the ruling will be enforced for those who can’t fill four gallons. Will you be charged for four gallons of fuel, regardless of how much you actually take?
Here’s the real irony: since E15 isn’t compatible with motorcycles or power equipment, the rule is meant to ensure that any residual E15 left in a fuel hose (up to a quart, according to USA Today) is diluted with enough standard gasoline (containing less than 10-percent ethanol) to render it harmless.
In other words, the four-gallon rule negatively impacts the very things it was implemented to protect.
Perhaps this is much ado about nothing, since very few stations in the United States appear to be selling E15. We suppose that riders could just choose another station with multi-hose pumps (presumably exempt from the regulation), as long as they had enough fuel remaining to do so.
Call us cynical, but when you need elaborate work-arounds to dispense a particular product, maybe a better solution is to just ask if that product needs to be sold at all.