Big Oil Talks Out of Both Sides of Mouth

By Tom Buis | June 26, 2013

Global Big Oil companies consistently criticize E15 for use by American motorists. Among their litany of fictitious claims is that E15 is dangerous and will cause engine damage. Without any evidence to back their claims, it is clear that they are employing scare tactics to prevent consumers from choosing a less expensive alternative to foreign oil.

As a matter of fact, Big Oil has erected every possible barrier to prevent higher blends, such as E15, from entering the commercial marketplace, protecting their market share and record profits at the expense of the free market and consumer choice.

They have launched an aggressive and endless public relations campaign designed to deceive and distort the truth about the true benefits of renewables. They have also taken their challenges to the courts. Big Oil’s deep pockets are funding a relentless campaign to lobby Congress to repeal the renewable fuel standard (RFS). Oil companies have made it clear they will do whatever it takes to maintain their stranglehold on the liquid fuels market.

Yet, something odd is occurring. While these companies are fighting biofuels here in America, claiming eminent damage, they are promoting them overseas. Like in Brazil, where they are using a 25 percent blend and in Thailand, where oil companies are using a 20 percent ethanol blend. 

So, halfway around the world, they are speaking out of the other side of their mouth as they introduce higher blends of ethanol into the marketplace.  Apparently it is safe to use E15 and even higher blends of ethanol. The Bangkok Post reported May 6 that, “Shell officially began selling the fuel on Friday at 32 petrol stations in Greater Bangkok.” In fact, higher blends are so successful the article goes on to explain that Shell, “plans to expand to 100 pumps nationwide by year-end.”

Shell is confident of the performance and safety of higher ethanol blends, explained Grant McGregor, general manager for retail sales and operations. “We plan to have a communication strategy with our customers to ensure awareness and confidence in our products.” He also noted that, “We expect continued growth in the E20 market, as this segment's sales grew 30 percent in the first quarter.”

Then why are oil companies fighting higher blends of ethanol like E15, at home? Clearly their research shows it is safe and consumers should feel confident.  What is the difference between Bangkok and Boston, Thailand and Tuscaloosa? What is the difference when it comes to fueling our transportation needs? The answer is none!

If higher blends, such as E20, work in cars in Thailand, NASCAR runs E15 at Talladega and every single one of their other races, and if it is good enough for Shell to sell halfway across the world, then it is good enough for American consumers. They should have the choice to fuel up with higher ethanol blends in Anytown, USA, because it is safe and reliable, period.

The reality is that Big Oil will stop at nothing to protect their market share and keep their pockets deep and well-lined.

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