AAA Taking Heat for E15 Position

July 22, 2013 |

colemanBy Brooke Coleman
Executive Director, Advanced Ethanol Council

In case you missed it, a skirmish broke out last week between AAA South Dakota and AAA National over AAA’s position on ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The catalyst for the disagreement is an oil industry funded television advertisement currently running in South Dakota and other states alleging that E15 could ruin your car and the RFS needs to be repealed.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), which is funding the campaign, decided to build the commercial around AAA’s public opposition to the increased availability of E15 blends in the marketplace. It’s a smart play by API – hey, don’t believe us; believe the guys picking people up on the side of the road.

But AAA’s positioning against ethanol could come back to haunt them in a number of ways.

The wacky 3-car test that AAA backed

First, their position is corrupt. In essence, to get to where they are on E15, they had to ignore an 86 car test conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy showing no mechanical problems for both E15 and E20 blends in favor of an API funded 3 car study that was so flawed that U.S. DOE uncharacteristically blasted it in a rebuttal shortly after the results were published.

The API 3-car test had only one purpose from the outset, and AAA was well aware of the DOE test when it decided 9 months ago to lobby against ethanol, petition federal agencies to block its use, and publicly support proposed legislation to ban higher ethanol blends. And let’s set the record straight, AAA has not picked up anyone on the side of the road because of E15.

Second, AAA’s positioning on ethanol is starting to divide the company regionally in ways that will draw even more attention to their indefensible position on biofuels.

Last week, AAA South Dakota publicly criticized the API advertisement and issued a statement saying they are supportive of ethanol and consumer choice at the pump. This prompted AAA National to issue a statement of its own, claiming that API used their name in the ads without permission, and AAA is just trying to protect consumers from legitimate concerns about E15.

AAA South Dakota may know that AAA National’s position on E15 is anything but legitimate. But what they really understand is biofuel production employs a lot of people in the middle of this country in a very difficult economy, and these families may decide to find another roadside assistance company if AAA continues to validate storylines invented by the oil industry to protect their monopoly.

Third, AAA is leaving itself wide open to further and more publicly develop its reputation as the Big Oil roadside assistance company, which won’t make its membership development people happy. Remember, this is the roadside assistance outfit that opposed bike lanes of all things.

A Better World?

Alternatives to AAA are already stepping up. Earlier this month, the Better World Club, a green roadside assistance provider, criticized AAA for again carrying water for the oil industry. In a newsletter sent to supporters, Better World wrote, “AAA is a key piece of the puzzle. They are the ones who are putting the fear into politicians that voters will be stranded on the side of the road if they use E15. It’s all nonsense. E15 is the most tested fuel in history.”

One might ask just how important AAA is to defending the RFS and commercializing next generation biofuels. The answer is: pretty important. There is no better way to curb innovation in the ethanol industry than to needlessly cap market access. And the oil industry simply cannot get enough votes to open up the RFS without attracting 3rd party validators like AAA willing to also mislead the public.

So when I cancelled my membership with AAA months ago, it wasn’t just their dishonesty about biofuels that motivated me: Better World has a faster roadside assistance response time anyway.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Tags: , ,

Category: Top Stories

Thank you for visting the Digest.