On Monday Growth Energy, the leading trade organization representing ethanol producers and supporters, kicked off its seventh annual Executive Leadership Conference at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando, Florida. The organization’s leadership opened the conference with addresses to the membership, and the first panel of the day focused on “The E15 Revolution,” where retailers discussed growth in consumer demand of higher ethanol blends such as E15.
In discussing the changing marketplace, Mike Lorenz, Executive Vice President of Petroleum Supply at Sheetz commented that initial sales have exceeded expectations, even before kicking off a marketing campaign around E15. “The consumers are finding it on their own, and sales are increasing.” Jim Pirolli, Vice President of Fuels at Kum-N-Go, said cost is the biggest selling point for E15. “A big difference on the street is just having that lower price on the price sign,” he said. They are seeing strong sales in all of their markets. “When it comes to consumer choice, they’re going to go with a higher performance, better value product.”
The message from the panel of leading fuel retailers was clear – E15 is the fuel of the future and that its widespread commercial adoption is simply a matter of time and education. Jeff Broin, co-chair of Growth Energy’s Board of Directors, delivered a “Chairman’s Report” that outlined the current state of the renewable fuels industry and how this year is all about going full throttle for the industry. Broin noted that the industry had a record year producing a product that represents a growing share of the gasoline market and said, “This is a long-term game, and we will not give up. Our industry is poised to succeed, because we are doing the right thing for our nation and generations to come. We will continue to go full throttle to produce a biofuel that reduces toxic air emissions while improving performance for future vehicles.”
Following Jeff Broin’s speech, Tom Buis, Co-Chair and CEO of Growth Energy, delivered his annual “CEO Report.” In his address, Buis told attendees, “last year was an interesting year, we increased exports, had another great corn crop and defeated every single attempt to repeal or reform the RFS.” Buis also praised how the industry stepped up and helped change the course of this administration’s rulemaking regarding the RVOs, noting “while it’s not perfect and it has flaws, it was far better than the original, and the blend wall was finally cracked this year.” Furthermore, Buis outlined how defending the Renewable Fuel Standard and expanding market access to E15 will continue to be among the industry’s top priorities in 2016.
Additionally, Buis highlighted the importance of doing what is best for our industry, noting that “we need to grab the bull by the horns and discuss all the good work that this industry does, including the environmental benefits, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and all the good jobs we create across the nation, while helping bring choice to American consumers.”
Buis added that by engaging with retailers, we have been successful in bringing E15 and higher blends to the marketplace. Buis said, “Our work showed that we were not going to let others define us, we must share our story on how we are tomorrow’s fuel,” noting that “fossil fuels will go the way of the steamboat, horse and buggy and the blimp.” Buis then added, “Anytime we are compared to the oil industry, we win.”
Buis closed by saying, “I think as an industry, there is no industry that is better. With our knowledge, passion and engagement, we’re going to win this fight, but it’s going to take effort. Effort equals results. We will not sit back, we will roll up our sleeves and we will win.” Buis then quoted Robert Kennedy who said, “Some people see things the way they are and ask why, we dream things that never were and ask why not!”
Following both speeches and the panel on E15, the message from the first day of Growth Energy’s conference was that the demand for E15 is here, and the ethanol industry represents the future, one in which our industry will work to improve our environment by continuing to deliver a clean, high-performance enhancement to motor fuel.