ACE Market Development Program Hits All 50 States in 2008
by Chuck Beck
One of the American Coalition for Ethanol’s key areas of focus is on developing new markets for ethanol-blended fuel, and in 2008 the ACE market development program crisscrossed the country and met with petroleum marketers representing all 50 United States.
Ron Lamberty, ACE’s Vice President / Market Development, visited 25 different cities across 20 states, representing the ethanol industry to petroleum marketers and answering questions they have about our fuel. He estimates that these travels allowed him contact with more than 2,500 marketers this year, representing retail gas stations in all 50 states.
“Big Oil wants to control the flow of ethanol, and the flow of ethanol information. We go directly to the station owners, making sure they have all of the information they need to make sure they’re being treated fairly when they buy ethanol,” Lamberty said.
Many of Lamberty’s travels were to petroleum marketer conventions and annual meetings, where he exhibited at the event’s trade show and often also was a guest speaker on the program. Instead of a station-by-station approach, these events offer the invaluable opportunity to speak directly to a state’s or a region’s petroleum marketers all in one venue.
“The name of the game is answering questions,” Lamberty said. “How to blend their own E10, how to begin offering mid-range blends to their customers, and what assistance is available for adding blender pumps. These are the most common questions.”
ACE created the market development program eight years ago, and Lamberty joined the staff in the fall of 2000.
“Instead of fighting with the petroleum side, ACE had the clarity to see that we needed to work with them and educate them on how to use ethanol and how ethanol could benefit their bottom line,” Lamberty said. “They were looking for someone who could speak ‘petrolese’, and my background in fuel retail and wholesale made me a pretty good fit.”
Having these face-to-face conversations with petroleum marketers can help ease some of the mistrust or resistance the petroleum industry has had in the past when dealing with ethanol. And because ACE is not in the business of directly selling the fuel product, the organization is seen as credible and the sales pressure is removed from the conversation.
Lamberty says that as this year went on, he could see audiences becoming more receptive to some of the ideas ACE is promoting. Especially as gas was hitting the three- and four-dollar range, the blending economics of ethanol drew a lot of attention.
The message really resonated in the Southeastern U.S., one of the last regions to widely adopt ethanol blends. Ethanol’s positive blending economics have helped the infrastructure get set up where it needs to be, and petroleum marketers recognized that ethanol was providing a business opportunity that was not there before.
“We worked with South Carolina petroleum marketers this year on some blending issues, and both South and North Carolina ended up passing state laws protecting the station’s right to have access to unblended product and blend their own ethanol and gasoline to make E10. This protects them from being overcharged for ethanol and makes sure the savings can make it to the street as intended,” Lamberty said.
Another example he notes in the South is the Pantry chain of convenience stores, which had representatives in attendance at one of the seminars where Ron was a guest speaker. After learning about splash blending and ethanol’s blending economics, they took action against their supplier to stop the miscalculation and overcharging for the ethanol blends they were receiving.
“These two examples show how, once we can demonstrate what ethanol can offer to the marketer, how receptive they are in passing on the benefits to the consumer,” Lamberty said.
The new year will remain busy for the ACE market development team, led by Lamberty with assistance from Lacey Dixon, ACE’s Director of Member and Industry Relations. He notes that there may not be as many trade shows on the schedule next year due to some consolidation, but he anticipates that the number of seminars and speaking opportunities will grow as public interest continues to grow.
“We are working to pass laws that would make ethanol more competitive, and also help petroleum marketers take advantage of more programs and sell ethanol at a profit,” Lamberty said.
Petroleum marketer trade shows attended by ACE in 2008
Arkansas Petroleum Marketers
New & Emerging Technologies Trade Show
Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA)
Western Petroleum Marketers Association
Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers
Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association (MPACT)
Florida Petroleum Marketers
Tennessee Oil Marketers Association
Pacific Oil Conference
Pennsylvania Petroleum Marketers
National Association of Convenience Stores
Ohio Petroleum Marketers Association
Petroleum and Convenience Store Exposition of America (PACE)
Western Petroleum Marketers Association
Michigan Petroleum Association and Michigan Association of Convenience Stores
Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association