Making ethanol direct sales easy

The September issue of EPM is now online and contains stories about E85 and E15 sales. This month's editorial note, written by Tom Bryan, is titled "Making It Easy" in the print edition.
By Tom Bryan | August 21, 2015

While opinions differ on the best way to grow the market for higher-level ethanol blends, there’s one truth we can all agree on: Retail sales have to be made easy—for everyone. Consumers, given a choice and good information, will buy higher-level ethanol blends when the fuel is easy to find and priced right. Likewise, retailers will host higher-level ethanol blends when there’s a financial upside to making room for the fuels under their canopies, and when the tedious work of installing the pumps is handled by someone else.       

Today, we see this “make it easy” thing playing out on the coasts with two big names in E85. In “Consumers Attracted by Value, Convenience,” EPM Senior Editor Susanne Retka Schill reports on how Protec in the East and Propel in California have made it easy for their retail gas station partners to say yes to E85. Propel, for example, pays its retailers rent and a share of its E85 profits. Protec handles the permitting, installation, fuel delivery and pricing of its E85. These companies are creating stress-free E85 experiences for retailers, and it’s paying dividends. 

Our cover story, “Producers Tackle Blend Wall,” highlights a few ethanol plants that are blending and selling the fuel they produce directly to consumers. In this piece, EPM Managing Editor Holly Jessen catches up with Carbon Green Bioenergy’s Mitch Miller, who is spearheading the Michigan ethanol plant’s vertical integration into retail sales. After already supplying more than 30 area retail stations with E85, Carbon Green will now own and operate its own convenience stores. The first NuVu Fuels station opened in Ionia, Michigan, in July, offering up to five ethanol blends ranging from E10 to E85. A second station is planned. Carbon Green isn’t the first U.S. ethanol producer to jump into the retail fuel business. Jessen reminds us that Nebraska Corn Processing in Cambridge, Nebraska, has been blending and selling its ethanol at a travel center near the plant since 2013. Zeeland Farm Services owns both the ethanol plant and the gas station.

Finally, despite the vital role E85 and other high-level ethanol blends play, it is perhaps E15 that represents the industry’s largest long-term market growth opportunity due to its near-universal engine compatibility. E15 is a fuel that almost every driver can use, but very few know about. That’s why the ethanol industry has recently deployed E15 brand ambassadors across the country. Check out “Introducing E15 with a Smile,” for a look at what’s being done to make a lasting first impression on future E15 faithfuls.

Author: Tom Bryan
President & Editor in Chief