ND group educates FFV owners, promotes use of higher blends

By Holly Jessen | July 18, 2013

Thanks to a promotion by North Dakotans for Energy Independence, flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) owners in the state can receive coupons for discounts on higher ethanol blends and enter to win a $1,000 fuel card. The awareness campaign is ongoing through December.

The group, a coalition of state ethanol producers, farmers, fuel retailers and consumers, discovered through a survey that although North Dakota has nearly 200 flex fuel pumps in more than 40 communities, many FFV owners don’t realize they can fill up with higher blends like E20, E30 or E85. “There’s this huge opportunity,” said Deana Wiese, executive director of the North Dakota Ethanol Council. “[In North Dakota] we have the ethanol producers, we have the retail infrastructure in place and we have around 64,500 flex-fuel vehicles, so now we need to put all the pieces together and educate the consumer on the availability of the higher blends of ethanol and benefits of them so that we take advantage of that.”

The education and awareness campaign, referred to as “Run with it,”  is targeted to FFV through direct mailings. In 2012 nearly 70,000 were sent out, followed up by 20,000 so far in 2013, Wiese said. The mailer includes information about what a FFV is and why FFV drivers should fill up with higher ethanol blends. In addition, drivers are asked to go to www.flexfuelsavings.com to fill out a questionnaire in exchange for a coupon for and a chance to win the drawing. The group has also run promotions on the radio and is working through more than 50 fuel retailers and more than 20 car dealerships to spread the word.

Participating fuel retailers are provided with signage, such as pump toppers, and handouts to distribute at their gas stations, she said. For car dealerships that are part of the program, consumers that purchase new or used FFVs are given a $30 voucher for higher ethanol blends. “There’s several different mechanism of receiving it,” Wiese said. “We have had a good response and ultimately our measure is increased sales of ethanol across the state. Between 2010 and 2012, ethanol sales have increased over 15 percent in North Dakota. So that’s our ultimate measure of success.”

The campaign is a result of a partnership between the North Dakota Ethanol Council, the North Dakota Corn Utilization Council and the American Lung Association of North Dakota. It has received grants from the North Dakota Renewable Energy Council and North Dakota Department of Commerce Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency.

In 2009, the North Dakota legislature lead other states in forming one of the nation’s first ethanol checkoffs, establishing the North Dakota Ethanol Council. Representatives of the four ethanol plants in North Dakota, Red Trail Energy LLC, Blue Flint Ethanol LLC, Tharaldson Ethanol LLC and Hankinson Renewable Energy, are part of the council. The current marketing campaign is one of the first initiatives that was taken on by the group, Wiese said.