I did a double-take when I saw this headline:
Ethanol Lawsuit Proceeds against Oil Companies
It turns out that oil companies – forced to use ethanol in gasoline despite many protests – are now being sued because ethanol blends can corrode fiberglass tanks in boats.
NAPLES, Fla. — A Florida lawsuit against six oil companies that alleges negligence for failing to warn boat owners of potential harm from ethanol-blended gasoline, survived a motion to dismiss from the defendants, NaplesNews.com reported.
Plaintiff attorney Jeffrey Ostrow of Fort Lauderdale said the next step is pursuing certification to become a class-action lawsuit. The intent is to represent all Florida boat owners who have used ethanol-blended fuel and whose boats have been damaged by the fuel, Ostrow said. He filed the lawsuit in August 2008 on behalf of three plaintiffs.
The defendants include Chevron, Exxon, BP, Shell Oil, ConocoPhillips and Tower Energy Corp., a California-based independent petroleum wholesaler, the report stated.
Our judicial system never ceases to amaze me. Why not instead go after the lawmakers who thought it would be a good idea to rapidly increase the amount of ethanol in the fuel system without thoughtfully considering the impacts?
At issue is a state law adopted in spring 2008, which states all gasoline sold in Florida must contain 10 percent ethanol, called E10, by the end of 2010 as part of conservation measures. Two exemptions were included allowing ethanol-free gas to be sold for airplanes and boats. About half a dozen other states require ethanol additives in gasoline.
I guess it’s like Willie Sutton’s alleged answer about why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.” So, why sue oil companies for complying with this mandate that was forced on them? Because that’s where the money is.
23 thoughts on “Amazing Ethanol Lawsuit Against Oil Companies”
More like when Otter told Flounder: “You f***ed up – you trusted us!”
I am beginning to think that all lawsuits not involving civil rights — ie business lawsuits — should be compelled into administrative courts, where they are dismissed or settled quickly. Like in one day or less.
This is a stupid suit, and should be dismissed in five minutes, maybe two minutes. Even meaningful suits should be wrapped up quickly, so that we can go back to work.
There should be a sign warning boat owner to not consume ethanol while operating a vessel. My boat uses leaded gas for valve lubrication. If you have something old it is sometimes necessary to make adjustments as society moves on.
I would suggest that folks who are not smart enough to properly fuel their cars and boats should rely on public forms of transportation.
To be fair, we don’t know if the individuals involved, knew in advance if the fuel contained ethanol.
In the UK, there is a 5% bio fuels requirement. I believe that most of this is being met by selling B10 bio diesel, and some of it from E85, so much of our regular gas is still ethanol free.
However I picked up a leaflet in a Shell station not long ago that was informing motorists of changes to the fuel blends.
It specifically mentions that soon there will be bio fuels within both Shell diesel and Shell gasoline.
It claims that this won’t affect engine performance.
However unless they can change the laws of physics, a 5% ethanol gas blend will contain less energy than straight gas. My car won’t adjust its timing, but does have a lamda sensor so it’ll just inject more fuel to maintain a stochiometric ratio.
But its not like I can buy ethanol free gas elsewhere so what choice do I have.
This lawsuit has merit. These guys were selling ethanol fuel at marinas,knowing it would damage boats. That’s not just negligent. It’s criminal in my opinion.
That’s not just negligent. It’s criminal in my opinion.
But it’s the law that the gasoline there has to have 10% ethanol. They were complying with the law.
Does selling a product in compliance with the law relieve the company selling the product from liability, or at least from informing the customer of possible hazards associated with their product?
Analogously: If car companies are required to install airbags, and airbags are known to kill small children who are in the front seat, does the fact that the airbags are required relieve the car company of the responsibility to inform the consumer of the potential danger?
In both cases, I would say not.
I suspect that the legal issue will hinge on whether or not the oil companies engaged in negligence: i.e. they knew there was a problem, and they said and did nothing. It may be that (in part because of the way the blending was forced on them) they legitimately had no idea there was a problem; in that case, one hopes they would be vindicated. But if they knew and said nothing, that’s a pretty clear case of negligence, even if the problem was introduced initially by a legal requirement.
It may be that (in part because of the way the blending was forced on them) they legitimately had no idea there was a problem;
Given that they fought these mandates tooth and nail, I think if they knew there was a problem they would have screamed it from the mountaintops to anyone who would listen.
I can tell you that when I testified against the mandate in Montana, I warned of multiple problems. Proponents waved them away as the expected complaints from the oil companies whose business was threatened.
I’ve seen gas pumps with signs saying whether the gasoline does or does not contain MTBE, an additive which had been first required and then banned by the state. I agree with GreenEngineer on the possible liability of not informing customers of the ethanol content.
You quoted the article as saying
Two exemptions were included allowing ethanol-free gas to be sold for airplanes and boats.
It seems reasonable to me to expect ethanol content labeling, since not all gasoline is required to have 10% ethanol and it’s important for boat owners to know. I’m not really sure about having to go beyond content notification to warning of hazards. That could be more the boat manufacturers’ responsibility, like the way car manufacturers tell you which kind of fuel to use.
“Two exemptions were included allowing ethanol-free gas to be sold for airplanes and boats.”
I own a 30 year old sail boat with an inboard gasoline engine and a galvanized steel gas tank. Part of owning a boat is being knowledgeable about maintaining it. Maritime law and the seafaring tradition are contrary to the popular American culture of blame and sue someone.
The properties of ethanol are well known. There are blogs that discuss all kinds of fuel issues.
I’ve seen gas pumps with signs saying whether the gasoline does or does not contain MTBE, an additive which had been first required and then banned by the state.
Mmmmmm. Is ethanol following the same route?
Maybe at some point in the not-too-distant future ethanol will be a banned ingredient of gasoline…
“Two exemptions were included allowing ethanol-free gas to be sold for airplanes and boats.”
“But it’s the law that the gasoline there has to have 10% ethanol”
I don’t know who to believe….Robert or Robert. Marinas sell fuel for boats. If lawmakers left a loophole for boats,why was this fuel sold at marinas? You better believe I’d sue if my gas station put sugar in the fuel. After I tried to have them arrested….
Crossed paths with Clee’s post. MTBE is not compatible with ethanol or vice versa. If you leave your boat sit for a long period of time with ¼ tank of MTBE as an additive and ¼ tank of ethanol as an additive, you may have a mess.
If lawmakers left a loophole for boats,why was this fuel sold at marinas?
Yeah, I missed the part about the exemption. So then the question becomes “Were the pumps labeled?” But I still think that boat owners bear responsibility. Are the oil companies liable if a boat owner puts diesel in his tank? If ethanol is the law across the land – and it was – then I am going to make sure there is no ethanol in the gas if I am a boat owner.
I don’t know Robert. If these guys filled up at that marina for years,they may have had a false sense of security. I just assume the gas I buy at the local station won’t kill my engine. How many people know the reformulated gasoline in their lawn equipment can come apart over a long winter….until it happens to them?
The sad thing about this is the the shyster (sorry, distinguished counsel) is angling for a class action lawsuit. If successful, the silly boat owners will get a coupon good for a tank of gas, and the shyster will walk away with millions.
Shyster will then make big donations to his favorite politicians to make the laws even more complicated, so that there will be even more opportunities for lawyers to get rich off of other people’s sweat.
This is not a sustainable basis for society.
Do Chevron, Exxon, et al operate marinas? If so, I must have missed something…I thought they just sold fuel to marina operators who were licensed to use their brand identifies.
If by some change the negligence claim was valid, it seems it should be only agains the marina operators who had direct control over the signage. Of course, their pockets aren’t as deep, so we’re back to the Willie Sutton theory.
Another LCA documenting the environmental benefits of corn ethanol based on actual plants including the one at Mead Nebraska. The journal article is down loadable from the Journal of Industrial Ecology.
Figure 4 show even the worst state, Texas, has substantial benefits.
Kit, the plant in Mead went bankrupt. I wrote something about it here:
Responsible Ethanol Goes Bankrupt
the sad thing is that we’re globally competing against nations/economies whose citizens don’t have boats[but desire them someday, after taking our industries/jobs away]. these nations also don’t have surplus lawyers and incompetent politicians[they get shot/removed should they mess up badly].
perhaps a “good” long range energy stategy for the nation could alleviate some of the “boom to bust” cycles and subsequent jobs losses.
but perhaps one should expect the “FRIVALOUS” in our current society. we earned that right.
My understanding is that although there was an exemption for boats, the potential market was so small that no wholesaler stepped in to provide conventional gasoline. The price would have been very expensive and many boat owners would have just purchased gas at the local service station to use in their boats. So no fuel distributor wanted to take on the added cost and risk.
In other ethanol news, there is yet another LCA study now claiming that ethanol is much better than gasoline.
Improvements in Life Cycle Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Corn Ethanol
I briefly reviewed it. They forgot to account for energy used in irrigation. They assumed best case efficiency from the most modern ethanol plants and co-locating next to feedlots to reduce drying and transportation expenses. There may be a few plants like that but certainly not representative of the industry as a whole.
I was just reading
In the U.S., the primary method for blending ethanol into gasoline is splash blending. The ethanol is “splashed” into the gasoline either in a tanker truck or sometimes into a storage tank of a retail station….A variable blending pump would ensure the consumer that E10 means the fuel entering the fuel tank of the consumer’s vehicle is 10 percent ethanol (rather than the current range of 4 percent ethanol to at least 24 percent ethanol that the splash blending method provides) and 90% gasoline, Renergie said.
Is that true? That the standard “gasoline” which in some states is supposed to be 10% ethanol because of oxygenate rules might actually hit my tank at 24% ethanol?
I did a little searching, and It gets worse.
“The Iowa attorney general in August sued a fuel retailer for allegedly selling fuel with 18 percent ethanol while telling customers it had no ethanol at all. The Environmental Protection Agency says it is investigating similar problems.”
But then, this appears to be the fault of retailers, not of the big oil companies.
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