OPINION: Giving thanks where thanks are due

By Ron Lamberty, senior vice president, American Coalition for Ethanol | November 06, 2019

The past 18 months have been brutal to the ethanol industry. The Environmental Protection Agency gutted the Renewable Fuel Standard by issuing retroactive Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs), reducing refiners' renewable fuel requirements by 4 billion gallons and forcing ethanol producers to sell gallons at “clearance sale” prices. Had it not been for record-setting exports and forward-looking retailers offering new higher-ethanol blends at their stations, EPA's SREs from the RFS could have left the ethanol industry DOA.

So, in the spirit of the Thanksgiving season, we are thankful to the many station owners who made the decision to sell E15, E85, and other higher ethanol blends over the past several years. At the same time, those retailers have told us they're thankful for the additional gallons, increased customer counts, and higher profits they are earning because they chose to be leaders in their markets by being first to offer customers new, clean, high octane, low-priced high ethanol blends.

Because there is so much misinformation out there about ethanol—particularly about E15—most retailers continue to wait on the sidelines, believing E15 is too expensive to add, too risky to sell, and too small a market to get excited about. The truth is, E15 can often be sold using existing tanks, lines and dispensers, and most stations requiring upgrades will need to replace things like hoses and nozzles, but not tanks, piping or entire dispensers. It’s also true no E15 retailer has had to pay a liability claim since the fuel became legal to sell, and there are customers out there who want E15. In fact, in most stations offering E15, it makes up a bigger share of gasoline sales than premium and midgrade combined, and in some, E15 makes up more than half of total gasoline sales in many stations—not most, but quite a few.

Now, I suppose I could just be making all of that up, since I’m an “ethanol guy,” but as I’ve encouraged people in the past, and will encourage them today and in the future, don't take my word for it. Ask a marketer who has already added E15. If you don’t know any high ethanol blend retailers, you can start by going to flexfuelforward.com and watching some of the videos or reading the Q&A from several retailers who sell E15 and flex fuels and have lived to tell about it.

If you're a retailer, you know your customers better than ethanol naysayers or ethanol promoters. But you don’t know how your customers will react to a new fuel… or do you? Do you really wonder whether your customers will buy a higher octane gasoline that costs less than any other grade of gasoline you sell?

Maybe by this time next year, we'll be thanking you for selling more of our fuel, and you’ll be thankful you did.