one group each with fuel consumers/voters from the Atlanta, GA, San Diego, CA, and Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN metro areas as well as fuel consumers/voters from rural and suburban Minnesota • 47 participants total • 90-minute groups, including moderated group discussion and a participant questionnaire • Conducted January 19-20, 2021 2
but higher in CA 4 • Most associate ethanol with CORN and ALCOHOL. There were also misperceptions that the ethanol industry is receiving significant government SUBSIDIES. • Only 25% of Georgia and Minnesota consumers were aware that there is 10% or more ethanol blended in their gasoline compared to 60% of Californians who were aware. “I think that less ethanol is better for your engine…That’s what I was told.” – Atlanta Metro Fuel Consumer
• At the start of our focus group discussions, attitudes toward ethanol were mixed, but by the end of our discussions, perceptions of ethanol as a fuel source significantly IMPROVED, especially in Minnesota. • There remains a real need for the renewable fuels industry to EDUCATE and INFORM consumers about the usage and benefits of ethanol in the U.S. ‘’The industry needs to do a full-on campaign on TV and at the pumps, putting the pros and cons out there…we need to have it all in our face.” - Rural Minnesota Fuel Consumer
with greater concern about air quality in Atlanta 6 • Environmental concerns have GROWN since our prior fuel consumer research in early 2019. Today, consumers are particularly worried about the impact of climate change and pollution on FUTURE generations. • For consumers in San Diego and Minnesota, CLIMATE CHANGE is the greater concern as air quality in their region is viewed positively, but in a heavier commuter region like Atlanta, AIR QUALITY was a larger concern than climate change overall.
7 • ENVIRONMENTAL FRIENDLINESS: Ethanol’s role in reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality ranked as the most important consumer benefit of ethanol across markets. • ENERGY INDEPENDENCE: Consumers are all too aware that America has relied on foreign oil imports in past decades, so ethanol is viewed as a compelling fuel source to help ensure price and supply stability. • AFFORDABILITY: Consumers are cost conscious, particularly during the pandemic, and price is the driving factor in how they select fuel options.
about fuel 8 • Rural and suburban consumers in a less densely populated state like Minnesota have to drive farther to reach their jobs and run normal errands than urban consumers. As a result, AFFORDABILITY was the top benefit ethanol can provide them, followed by jobs and economic growth and environmental friendliness. • In addition, cost pressures are a greater concern in rural communities, and these consumers don’t have the luxury of putting environmental friendliness ahead of their household budget. “With the amount of driving I’ve been doing, it has to be affordable or I just can’t do what I do.” – Rural Minnesota Fuel Consumer
engine performance ranked fourth among all potential benefits of ethanol we tested because it only resonated with a limited number of consumers who currently drive or are considering EXPENSIVE, LUXURY vehicles that require higher octane fuel. • There is LIMITED understanding of “octane” and how different gasoline blends impact engine performance. “I wouldn’t choose higher octane fuel unless I was advised to do it.” – San Diego Metro Fuel Consumer
or higher quality 10 When you say… They hear… “More efficient” Better for my vehicle and my wallet “Higher octane” More expensive, for performance and race cars “Higher quality” More expensive, for luxury cars
Given limited consumer understanding of fuel options, highlighting choice and competition are not compelling benefits as consumers believe they OVERWHELM and COMPLICATE their experience at the pump. • Similarly, supporting agriculture is too far REMOVED from a direct consumer benefit as consumers don’t immediately understand “what’s in it for me” in supporting agriculture. They want a clean, livable planet for their children and fuel prices they can afford more than supporting others.
the pump 14 • The vast majority of consumers are making fuel decisions BEFORE they get to the pump. That’s why it is important to reach them with key benefits and messaging about higher ethanol fuels as early as possible in their decision-making process. • The industry and other trusted messengers should engage key audiences on the benefits of ethanol early – when they buy a car, when their vehicles need repairs, or when they search online for credible information on different types of gasoline.
• The most credible ethanol spokespeople – mechanics, manufacturers, and academic – were those that consumers viewed as being the most EXPERIENCED and UNBIASED. • Another critical common thread between these three messengers is that they all lack a FINANCIAL incentive to promote ethanol, or any fuel source over another. It’s critical to leverage these messengers as ambassadors for the benefits of ethanol and to bolster the industry during difficult policy debates. “I would trust my mechanic…They don’t have a financial or vested interest in making money on the type of gas I put in my car.” – Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro Fuel Consumer
and Low Carbon Fuel Standard 16 • A majority of urban consumers said they support the existing RFS and proposed LCFS because they view them as worthwhile steppingstones that bring us CLOSER to a greener future. • The most common concern was that they don’t go FAR enough to improve air quality and combat climate change. • It will be critical to frame the RFS and proposed LCFS as critical COMPONENTS of our nation’s overall strategy to reduce emissions and protect our environment.
Although most consumers expressed support for renewable fuel and lower carbon standards, there was RESISTANCE to adopting an E15 standard. • The two biggest concerns to proactively address are COST and COMPATIBILITY. • A few participants also expressed concern that the environmental benefits would be insufficient to merit adopting E15 as the new standard.
18 • While there is little opposition toward the existing RFS, a majority of rural Minnesota consumers were outright OPPOSED to adopting the LCFS or a statewide E15 requirement due to their resistance to new GOVERNMENT regulations generally. • To successfully persuade consumers about the need for these reforms, it will be critical to position them as CONSUMER-driven – not government-driven. “We’re getting ‘regulated’ out of existence. We’re gonna make a rule to do this, a rule to do that – what’s wrong with the way it is right now?” – Rural Minnesota Fuel Consumer
fuel consumers are PERSUADABLE on the benefits of ethanol. 1 2 3 4 19 Top ethanol benefits to promote: environmentally friendly, energy independence, and affordability. 5 The most trusted messengers: mechanics, car manufacturers, and academics. A majority of urban fuel consumers SUPPORT the RFS and an LCFS, but most OPPOSE adopting E15 as the new standard. It’s critical to reach consumers EARLY as they’re making fuel decisions before arriving at the pump.