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The First Lady of E15

Kristy Moore recalls her beginnings in the ethanol industry, her fondness for American agriculture and the long road to bringing E15 to market.
By Tim Portz | January 16, 2013

INTERVIEW BY TIM PORTZ

The story of the approval of E15 for use in model year 2001 and newer vehicles cannot be told without highlighting and recognizing the efforts, expertise and dogged determination of Kristy Moore, vice president of technical services for the Renewable Fuels Association. With gasoline forecasts in the United States predicting lower and lower usage, the approval and widespread adoption of higher percentage ethanol blends become vitally important to an established industry poised for another round of growth. Moore has piloted the industry’s effort to the approval of E15 and now sets her sights—and the industry’s—on making the fuel available to consumers, one station at a time.

You’re from Illinois. Did you grow up around agriculture?
Yes, I consider myself a farm kid, as my extended family farms. My father worked the farm during the summer break from teaching and my mother worked for a large company that was in the crop protection business.  When I graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in chemistry, I knew agriculture would be a part of my work career and I wanted to remain in central Illinois.  Staying involved in farming, crops, essentially all things representing rural America, is all good with me.  Agriculture is in my blood.   

You’ve spent time on the production side of this industry. How does this inform what you do in your work at the Renewable Fuels Association?
I went to work for ADM [Archer Daniels Midland Co.] right out of college at their distillery in 1994. We were making dozens of different alcohols that would be used in hairsprays, lotions, hand sanitizers and a wide range of fuels and industrial products.   Of course, we also produced some of the premier beverage alcohols in the world.  ADM let me gain experience in corn wet milling, product research and development and I ultimately worked for them in ethanol technical support.  It was quite a training ground. The work we did to expand ethanol transport and storage throughout the United States was groundbreaking. This type of hands-on experience really prepared me to assist the broad ethanol industry during the most expansive growth period.  In most cases, I’m able to say that I’ve been there and done that. 

The road to E15 approval reaches back to the first quarter of 2009. How difficult was it to maintainmomentum as you drove this effort?
Throughout 2008, Bob Dinneen (RFA president and CEO) and I worked diligently to understand all of the regulatory requirements for introducing new ethanol blended fuels into the marketplace.  We understood what the Energy Independence and Security Act was going to require and higher blends of ethanol in gasoline would be mandatory.  Keep in mind that the last time an ethanol waiver was approved by EPA was 1978. We knew we had a lot of research to do.  Ultimately, we developed the regulatory pathway for higher level blends then started putting the plan into action.  For nearly two years, we worked with the U.S. EPA, toxicologists and other scientists developing the required health impact information.  This project culminated in a multimillion-dollar, nearly 700-page report of E15 emissions, a report full of very heavy technical information.  Our next effort was to study the EPA’s conditional decision of E15, which lead RFA to receive the only approval of a model Misfueling Mitigation Plan.  We capped off our regulatory effort by developing the E15 Retailer Handbook.  This RFA document is more than a regulatory reference manual for E15, it’s a must have for all segments of the fuel distribution system.  We really knocked it out of the park with this industry guide.   Follow-up efforts for us were the creation of the E15 Education Outreach Coalition, which is a group of broad industry stakeholders joined together to support consumer education of E15. 

E15 is already being sold commercially in a small but growing number of gas stations.  What would you say motivated these early adopters to add this fuel to their product mix?
There are marketing and financial benefits with offering E15, which creates a win-win for both consumers and retailers themselves.  Most retailers want to offer a new ethanol fuel blend. The benefits of E15 being acceptable for sale to over 62 percent of all vehicles on the road today is attractive. 
The best part of the E15 introduction for me has been the opportunity to work with retailers and touting the benefits of broadening their product profile, which brings opportunities for additional profits. With more than 60 percent of retailers now being single- or two-store owners, these small businesses need every opportunity to stay in business.  E15 offers retailers a chance to set themselves apart by offering a new, exciting fuel to their station that not only confirms their commitment to domestic renewable fuels but also offers them a competitive advantage.  I love our E15 marketing materials that state “50 percent more homegrown.” That says it all for me.

Now that E15 has achieved federal approval, can you explain how that process carries forward on a state by state basis?
There are federal level requirements for gasoline due to the environmental harm that decades of gasoline-only use has done.  Agencies like the EPA control certain characteristics of gasoline to curb ozone and other toxic gasoline component impacts to air quality.  However, each state has the authority to regulate all of the other gasoline properties.  It’s quite amazing the level of detail in gasoline specifications that has been incorporated into state level regulations.  I spearhead an effort at the RFA to investigate any state-level impediments to higher-level ethanol content in gasoline.  It’s a great opportunity to work with state-level experts across the nation. 

The RFA produced the E15 Retailer Handbook, a 48-page handbook to help retailers understand the process for offering E15 at their location. How vital are convenience store owners in the effort to grow the E15
marketplace?
New ethanol fuel blends are vitally dependent on both vehicles and infrastructure.  We work diligently with auto manufacturers who need to make vehicles to not only be compatible with ethanol but take advantage of the benefits ethanol brings to transportation fuels like increasing octane.  We also work closely with petroleum marketers and store owners to evaluate their equipment to ensure a successful offering of E15 and other any other ethanol fuel blends.

What is the single biggest advantage for a retailer to come aboard and offer E15 for sale at their location?
Preparing for the future while finding new profit opportunities.  The Renewable Fuels Standard has been the single most effective legislation weaning the U.S. off foreign oil and it’s not going away.  Retail store owners who complete the process to ensure their fueling equipment, like tanks, dispensers, and hoses, are suitable for higher ethanol fuel blends, position themselves to be a step ahead for the future.  As ethanol prices have become more attractive, marketers are doing the math and recognizing the bottom-line advantages that can be gained by adding ethanol to their product mix.

How critical is it to grow consumer interest and demand for E15 and how does our industry engage in that effort?
Consumer interest is critical. E15 was approved for more than 62 percent of all vehicles on the roads today, which constitutes more than 85 percent of all fuel consumed. That said, every gas station in the country already sells a fuel these vehicles can use and it works just fine. Convincing consumers to break their norm and try something new is no easy task. The “if it ain't broke, why fix it” mentality is strong with most consumers, and we have to reach back to the core benefits of ethanol to make consumers give it a shot. There are many benefits to using ethanol and different ones resonate with different consumers—its renewable, domestic and cleaner-burning. The RFA has prepared promotional materials that are already being used in the field to promote E15 at retail locations to educate consumers. You can text in for information, visit the websites or simply call. As more stations offer E15, this effort will ramp up.

 

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