Should Oil Keep its Crown?

By Tom Buis | June 13, 2011

To the vast majority of Americans, their fuel is an invisible product. They don’t really see it; they see the signs and prices hanging from the canopies of the filling stations.

Ethanol is even more invisible; there are no ‘ethanol’ stations, only ‘gas’ stations.

This is just one way that Big Oil keeps its place as king. We in the fuel business think of regulatory and legislative problems, and market development programs, on a massive scale. That’s not the way most Americans think of keeping their fuel tank filled: they think dollars and cents, and which of their local retailers has the best price for filling the family minivan or the car in which they commute to work.
There are many hurdles that prevent ethanol from gaining a greater share of the American fuels market, and the fact that we are an invisible product is just one of them.

Growth Energy is on its way to changing that.

Whether it is our American Ethanol marketing partnership with NASCAR—an effort to promote ethanol to NASCAR’s 80 million loyal fans—or our Fueling Freedom proposal to build out the flex-fuel pumps and other infrastructure to deliver ethanol to the market, Growth Energy is devoted to putting more ethanol within reach of more Americans who want to displace foreign oil.

The American Ethanol marketing partnership offers a tremendous opportunity, and has already resulted in some of the best media exposure ethanol has seen, through TV broadcasts of the racing season and in the newspapers of those communities that host NASCAR speedways. Every positive newspaper or TV story is an opportunity for us to demonstrate that NASCAR’s use of E15 as a racing fuel proves that E15 is good enough for today’s street cars. The American Ethanol program puts ethanol into Victory Lane each weekend.

And with the budget climate in Washington squeezing every possible source for reducing federal outlays, it only makes sense to phase out the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit. We propose, through Fueling Freedom, to redirect the 45-cent-a-gallon VEETC toward a tax credit that would encourage retailers to install flex-fuel pumps. In states like North Dakota, South Dakota and others where we have seen a rapid build-up of flex-fuel pumps, we have seen the market react by buying more mid-level ethanol blends. North Dakota’s ethanol sales have more than doubled since the state government began a program to encourage flex-fuel pump installations.

It is time we put ethanol front and center in the minds of the public. It should not be an invisible product any longer. The American Ethanol partnership with NASCAR puts the American Ethanol logo on millions of TVs every weekend. Growth Energy’s Fueling Freedom proposal will put mid-level ethanol blends into the marketplace; more Americans will want to drive flex-fuel vehicles and fill up at flex-fuel filling stations.  At Growth Energy, we are changing perceptions of ethanol for the better. These are just some of the ways we are letting the American public know that Big Oil doesn’t need to be king.

Author: Tom Buis
CEO, Growth Energy
(202)545-4000
tbuis@growthenergy.org