Sharing Value, Building Brand

FROM THE FEBRUARY ISSUE: Editor in Chief Tom Bryan previews the magazine, including features about marketing E15, approval for corn fiber-to-ethanol processes, advocacy on Capitol Hill and ethanol blend pricing.
By Tom Bryan | January 23, 2018

If any doubt remains that the Renewable Fuel Standard is working, look no further than the role RINs play in attracting retailers and consumers to E15 and other higher-level ethanol blends. RINs were, in fact, designed to be the chief market mechanism of the RFS, and it’s clear that they’re making certain ethanol blends cheaper and more attractive at the pump. E15’s early-stage growth, for instance, has been mostly propelled by RINs, coupled with retailer education and, of course, good branding.

In “On the Spot,” on page 22, EPM Managing Editor Lisa Gibson explains how E15 retailers are using simple, consistent messaging to win over customers at the pump. Market research done by Growth Energy suggests that consumers need to be reassured quickly—like in seconds—that higher ethanol blends are cheaper and cleaner than regular unleaded, and safe for their vehicles. Messaging like that is working, even with variable branding, pump design and blend options between stations. In addition to brand building, engaging ethanol producers in the wholesale transaction process, and making sure retailers understand E15’s RIN advantage, might also help fast-track the fuel’s growth.

Deeper in this issue, Gibson reports in more depth on how RIN values affect fuel prices. Ethanol’s opponents often argue that RIN price spikes have a corresponding effect on ethanol-blended gasoline. However, just the opposite can be true, especially when it comes to higher ethanol blends in the Midwest. In “Unexpected Incentive,” on page 44, we learn that some ethanol producers are selling RINless ethanol, often E85, allowing the blender to retain the RIN value and pass the discount down the line. One of the big benefits of RINless ethanol is that it removes the RIN marketing burden from small, independent retailers that sometimes struggle to offload the credits at full value.        

In our page-30 story, “A Straighter, Shorter Pathway,” freelance journalist Susanne Retka Schill reports on how gaining EPA approval for corn fiber-to-ethanol processes is, at last, getting faster and easier. The agency took three years to green-light the first pathway approvals of this kind—granted to Quad County Corn Processors and Edeniq, respectively—and QCCP’s first customer required another two years to get its own go-ahead to generate D3 RINs. Similarly, the first ethanol plants to adopt Edeniq’s process, which gives producers a “cellulosic lift,” required many months for clearance. Today, that’s all changing and other corn fiber-to-ethanol companies are looking forward to a more streamlined approval process.

Finally, if you have ever wondered why Washington, D.C., fly-ins are important to our industry’s trade associations, be sure to read “The Fundamentals of Fly-Ins,” on page 36. The founders of this magazine used to say, “Success starts with showing up.” Similarly, the perception that U.S. lawmakers have of our industry is largely the result of our face-to-face interaction with them. Few American industries descend on Capitol Hill with such large groups of well-informed, genuine advocates.

Author: Tom Bryan
President & Editor in Chief
[email protected]