New study released, FFV campaign launched at ethanol conference

By Holly Jessen | February 17, 2016

The National Ethanol Conference kicked off Feb. 15 in New Orleans with a welcome reception. On Feb. 16, in addition to a full day of conference events, the Renewable Fuels Association released a new study and launched a flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) awareness program. 

The study, authored by economist John Urbanchuk, a managing partner at ABF Economics, outlined the 85,967 direct jobs and 271,440 indirect and induced jobs sustained by last year’s record ethanol production. In addition, the industry added $43.9 billion to the national gross domestic product, $23.5 billion to household income and paid $8.7 billion in taxes. Finally, the 14.7 billion gallons of U.S. ethanol produced displaced 527 million barrels of oil.

“The ethanol industry continues to make a significant contribution to the economy in terms of job creation, generation of tax revenue, and displacement of imported crude oil and petroleum products,” Urbanchuk said. “The importance of the ethanol industry to agriculture and rural economies is particularly notable. Continued growth and expansion of the ethanol industry through new technologies and feedstocks will enhance the industry’s position as the original creator of green jobs, and will enable America to make further strides toward energy independence.”

A new campaign, called “Flex My Choice,” gives consumers a voice to support FFVs. The effort is aimed at automakers, auto dealers and the U.S. EPA. As the CAFE credits are phased out for producing FFVs, automakers have begun producing less FFV models.

“The auto companies claim there has not been meaningful consumer demand for these vehicles and the incremental cost, albeit trivial, cannot be justified in the absence of a more balanced CAFE regime,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Bob Dinneen. “The ethanol industry needs to demonstrate the continued enthusiasm for FFVs. We want to raise our voices so that E85 and other mid-level ethanol fuels remain viable options for consumers.”

A total of 75,000 postcard pamphlets will be distrusted, which include an introduction to the issues, postcards for General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, known as the Detroit three, and a pledge that consumers can drop off at local auto dealerships. Petitions have also been launched on www.Change.org.

“It goes without saying that when consumers’ choices within a given market are limited, everyone loses,” said Robert White, RFA’s vice president of industry relations. “The ‘Flex My Choice’ campaign intends to ensure that consumers have choices when it comes to buying and fueling their vehicles. Thanks to USDA, the ethanol industry, and agriculture, 2016 will mark the largest expansion of E85 stations in history; it is not the time to stop the momentum. This campaign will send a clear signal to the automakers, their auto dealerships, and the EPA that there is a real demand on the part of consumers for more vehicle choices, more choices at the pump and increased access to higher ethanol blends.”

In addition, RFA announced it had previously awarded Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as the recipient of the RFA 2016 Industry Award in a ceremony held at the governor’s mansion. A video of Rick Schwarck, president of Absolute Energy, presenting the award was shown Feb. 17 at NEC.

“Governor Branstad, you have been one of the most passionate, articulate, and effective advocates for value-added agriculture, farmers, and ethanol,” said Schwarck. “You have fought in our state to build and maintain the nation’s largest and most competitive ethanol industry. You have fought the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as it has tried to undermine the effectiveness of renewable fuels programs. And you have made ethanol a defining issue in Iowa and across the country in this year’s presidential campaign.”