Fight Back Against AAA

In Ethanol, State Groups by Cindy

If the president of AAA had to take a true/false test on ethanol, he would probably score FFF.

According to AAA President & CEO Bob Darbelnet, “More than 90 percent of the vehicles on the road today are not approved by manufacturers to use E15, including most 2001-2013 models.” Notice how he carefully words this misrepresentation “not approved by manufacturers.” This is based on the owner’s manuals of the vehicles, which were all written before extensive testing proved that higher blends of ethanol are perfectly safe for them, allowing the government to approve the use of E15 blends in 2001 and newer vehicles.

This November 2013 statement by Darbelnet was used by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an article about Missouri approving the retail sale of E15 this month.

That made Missouri Corn Growers CEO Gary Marshall mad enough to cancel his 33-year membership with AAA and write a letter to Darbelnet explaining why and pointing out the facts.

“Approximately 80 percent of the vehicles on the road today are 2001 or newer and approved by the EPA to use the ethanol blend,” wrote Marshall. “In terms of possible engine damage, E15 is sold in 12 other states with no issues reported. We are unaware of AAA’s Roadside Assistance program picking up a single driver stranded alongside the road due to an engine issue caused by E15.”

If your organization is concerned about warranties, it should be noted E15 wasn’t approved by EPA when many vehicle owner’s manuals were written. Just like aftermarket fuel additives, such as stabilizers and octane boosters, specific fuels or additives are not always listed in a vehicle’s owner manual. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, use of these non-mentioned fuels and fuel additives does not necessarily void a vehicle warranty. In fact, vehicle manufacturers may not deny a warranty claim based on use of a different fuel if that fuel did not contribute to the problem for which the warranty claim is made.

Marshall informed Darbelnet that he is canceling his membership because he refuses “to support an organization so clearly aligned with the oil industry.” Every member of my family is also a long-time AAA member. I just used it last week when I was driving to Ft. Lauderdale with my oldest daughter to see my family and our car broke down halfway into a 10 hour trip. I’ve never had a problem with their service and it gives me great piece of mind to know that our daughters have someone to call if they have car trouble.

However, there are alternatives. According to Consumer Reports, there’s actually “an army of other businesses” offering roadside assistance plans - including insurance companies, carmakers, oil companies, credit-card issuers, even cell-phone service providers.

We’re looking at our options now and plan to cancel our AAA membership as soon as possible. No reason to support a company so outspokenly against a fuel we believe it and the farmers who make it possible.