Ron Lamberty: The Wisdom of Thumper

Ron Lamberty, Senior Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol, responds to a recent letter sent from the Petroleum Marketers Association of America to the Federal Trade Commission in his latest Ethanol Producer Magazine column.

The Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) recently sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection asking them to revisit E15 labeling regulations. The ethanol industry responded, calling it a blatant attempt to limit market access to E15, and noting the fact EPA and FTC addressed E15 labeling in a lengthy, open rulemaking process, taking in comments from thousands of stakeholders, including PMAA.

It’s reasonable to want to tear the letter apart and point out the pieces of standard Big Oil misinformation, like the “use of E15 in model year 2001 and newer vehicles may void warranties” canard, which conveniently ignores the fact that most cars older than the 2015 model year don’t have warranties. The typical new car warranty is three years, with a few companies covering vehicles for four or five years. It also ignores real world realities that no warranty has ever been voided by E15, and more than two-thirds of the cars on the road today that are under warranty have warranties that include E15.

PMAA also continues to use its inaccurate depiction of the FTC and EPA mandated E15 label as a warning for people that E15 will damage small engines and emission equipment on older vehicles. Not “may damage,” WILL damage. PMAA writes, “E15 cannot be used in motorcycles, boats, and gasoline powered tools and equipment without causing engine damage,” and “using E15 in model year 2000 and older vehicles will also damage emission equipment.” Those are provably false statements, and it’s understandable that some ethanol supporters want to expose those lies.

It’s satisfying to fight back, especially when your opposition is dead wrong - and you can prove it. But they’ve always been wrong. and we’ve always been able to prove it, and where has that gotten us?

Maybe we should take the advice of the great philosopher Thumper, who once said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Fortunately, the rabbit’s lack of grammar skills and inclusion of a double negative makes that easy. I won’t say nothing. In fact, I’ll say something nice.

The PMAA letter made some excellent points. PMAA correctly states "E15 is currently cheaper than E10 gasoline by as much as 10 cents per gallon," and that retailers can "use E15 pricing as a marketing tool ... to draw customers into their station and steer them to the fuel that produces the greatest profit margin." Those are excellent points we’ve been sharing with petroleum marketers for several years now - E15 saves consumers money, while increasing E15 retailers’ margins and customer counts. Now we can quote PMAA as a group that agrees with us! 

And here’s my favorite part: PMAA acknowledges that "competitors who do not sell E15" are "at a significant competitive disadvantage" to those offering the higher ethanol blend.

Yet for some reason, rather than telling their members about this opportunity and informing them how to implement higher ethanol blends safely and effectively, PMAA has provided marketers a steady stream of ghost stories to scare them away from selling E15. In the meantime, station owners and operators who actually sell E15 aren’t having the problems PMAA predicted. The only real problem is current E15 retailers taking millions of gallons and customers away from marketers paralyzed with fear by PMAA's ghosts.

E15 labeling is old news, EPA and FTC wrote the rules and people selling E15 are following them. There's no need for FTC to re-visit the rules, but if PMAA really wants to help petroleum marketers, they may want to re-visit their stance on E15.

Written By: Ron Lamberty, Senior Vice President, American Coalition for Ethanol

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