Will EPA Step in on GF-4 Rollout?


Independent lubricant blenders and quick-lube operators are asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require an inter-industry promotional campaign to ensure maximum use of GF-4 passenger car motor oils after commercial licensing of the standard begins this summer.

A spokesmanfor one carmaker predicted that some form of campaign will be included when the agency issues its requirements for the auto industry in coming weeks.

ILSAC, the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee, issued GF-4 on Jan. 14, with an understanding that the American Petroleum Institute will begin licensing oils that meet the standard in July. But the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association and the Automotive Oil Change Association have continued to express concerns about how GF-4 oils will come to market.

EPA hosted a Feb. 20 meeting in Detroit to hear those concerns. The agency monitors implementation of motor oil standards because they are developed partly to meet mandates on fuel economy and pollution from vehicles.

For previous passenger car motor oil standards, for example, EPA required automakers to use new oils for factory fill, to recommend new oils in owners manuals and on oil filler caps, and to obtain commitments from motor oil companies to supply enough new oil in specific viscosity grades to meet market demand.

At the Feb. 20 meeting, both AOCA and ILMA contended that more needs to done to disseminate information about GF-4 throughout the motor oil supply chain.

Its one thing to develop a specification, said Joanna Johnson, policy advisor for AOCA. But if you want to ensure that it is actually used, you need to make sure you get the information out to people who are going to do the installing, and to end-users themselves.

Specifically, AOCA stressed the need to get information to quick lubes and their customers, claiming those groups did not receive enough information for the introduction of GF-3. In some cases, the association said, quick-lube operators did not know why they should be installing GF-3 oils. In others, operators knew but were unable to convince their customers.

You need to get documentation throughout the supply chain so that everyone is on the same page, Johnson said. And it needs to be something from the vehicle manufacturers. Then the quick lube can show it to the motorist and the motorist wont think that the quick lube is just trying to sell them a more expensive oil.

Marty Reineman, an engineer in EPAs Certification and Compliance Division, said the agency is now drafting a letter laying out what it will require of automakers for implementation of GF-4. He declined to discuss the contents of the latest draft, except to say that the requirements for GF-3 will serve as a starting point and that the agency may also require a program to promote the new standard.

General Motors Mike McMillan attended the Feb. 20 meeting and said it was clear that EPA will require promotion.

They have already scheduled another meeting to discuss this, so I think that means something, he said. I think EPA will definitely ask for this, and I agree its a good idea.

AOCA also complained that supply of 5W-20 oils was inadequate after the rollout of GF-3, in July of 2001. It wasnt offered in bulk until the first quarter of 2002, Johnson said. Our folks certainly couldnt get that grade.

ILMA asked EPA to direct automakers to include independent blenders when obtaining assurances about the supply of GF-4 oils. The association said its members have been left out of that process in the past, even though they account for a significant portion of the nations motor oil supply.

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