I’m a second-generation marketer. My dad started the company. I’ve worked with him my entire life.
The picture on my wall is from the summer of 1969, standing on top of a tank wagon with my father. I was three years old at the time. I’ve been doing it a long time.
Not may people today that have done some literally their entire life. We’ve been in the retail business for the last 30 years and the petroleum and transportation energy business for about 47 years.
This decision of moving into the renewable energy world, this was a family decision.
We were the first ethanol retailer in the United States to offer E15 in July of 2012.
Watching the evolution of what I call “transportation energy,” which has evolved over the last eight to ten years, it’s interesting to see what we can do today.
Instead of saying “gasoline,” “diesel fuel,” “ethanol,” “biofuels” – we sell ‘em all, and so with that we are transportation energy providers. Those can be higher blends of ethanol, E15, E85, could be biodiesel.
I’m able to get our transportation energy within 50 to 75 miles of our location. No matter what happens, we can get a product that we can get in our community.
It was 2008 that I completed my first retail blending facility. When we did that, we changed from being a gas station to being an energy provider.
In our entire mix of gasoline, about 30 percent of that is ethanol. It’s funny they bring up that “blend wall,” it’s something we really don’t see. With ethanol and our blender dispensers, there’s no such thing as a blend wall.
In 1973 my father was a wholesale distributor and also sold to the farming community, and he could not sell a drop because he couldn’t get any. We had the oil embargo. I was seven years old.
Fast forward to 1991, we had the Gulf War. Fuel went to $1.97 a gallon, and we had panic in the community. We had problems getting fuel and people were very, very nervous.
Then we moved forward to 2007, and we had the collapse of the economy. All of that was based around the same thing: energy. We were at $150 barrel of oil. We knew that we couldn’t be sustainable.
When I thought about how we could gain an edge, but also help our entire community, that was coming up with another form of energy. I was driven that we needed to make a change.
Today, being able to put E15, E85 in a retail location is a slam dunk. That’s because we’ve spent the last seven years going through what is the difficult part — bringing those products to the retail consumer and location. We know everything that needs to be done today in order to bring in those products. For a station owner to bring it in today is a slam-dunk. We have a check-list for it.
All you have to decide is, do I want to have another product, do I want something that’s going to gain market-share for me?
It’s the easy thing to do today. You just have to make that decision, do I want to be progressive and move forward, or do I want to stay stagnant in a stagnant market?
Tens of millions of gallons, tens of thousands of customers, and we have not had one single substantiated claim.
The risks for putting in blender dispensers are very limited. It’s a lot of propaganda being put out. We don’t have an issue; there is no issue with higher blends of ethanol, E15 and above.
What we’ve had are comments that higher blends are actually giving [customers] higher mileage. We’ve had more comments about higher mileage than damage.
Would we every go back to what we had done prior? Three products at the pump, one blended at the center — “plus” is what we called it? Those are all antiquated.
I don’t think there’s anything that will take us back in time. We’re about moving forward.
It’s much easier when there’s more of us coming along. Having more people having more blends only elevates our ability to build more customers. And the ball starts rolling, and it’s never going to stop.
I mean, you get down to it, we’re all very, very similar. We have very similar situations we face. When you sit down and talk to somebody in the business, it’s easy to have a conversation with somebody, they all understand what the consumer is looking for. Some of them, it’s more difficult to make a change because status quo is much easier.
Right now it’s a special opportunity for those of us in small business to move quickly and be able to change over to new energies [like] E15 and E85. The big guys are not leaders, they’re followers. Small business are the leaders — take advantage today.
With the markets today, we have to have an opportunity to have a stable business environment. Stability is Number One.
I’ve been asked, “Why did you do what I do? Why did you take that risk?” I said, we have to take chances. In our industry we take chances everyday. We just wanted to gamble on something we feel strongly about.