Prices and values: Lincolnfuel and biofuel

October 31, 2013 |

Lincoln-fuelAlternative ways to think about alternative fuels. Is it merely a substitute for hydrocarbons to be embraced on the grounds of price, emissions, or energy security?

Or, perhaps, just a little bit more. A lifestyle or values statement? We investigate.

Imagine if Oscar Meyer marketed their weiners via an intimate discussion of the ingredients, would you want to be one? Yecch.

Yet, isn’t that how ethanol is presented and marketed? As a story about ingredients – this molecule vs that one. This input vs that one. This lifecycle emission vs that one.

Imagine if the iPod had been sold as a “carrier for the Toshiba 1.8 inch drive”. If BMW was sold with comparative charts on its chosen varietals of steel or plastic. If Rolaids spelled “magnesium hydroxide” instead of “RELIEF”.

Whatever the world would be, it would be different.

In a world of customer experience and customer identity — rather than a world of ingredients — people are generally annoyed by the details.

For that reason, while the biofuels industry markets E10, E15, E85, B2, B5, B10, B50, B100, Bu12.5, Bu16 — a dizzying array of numbers, here in Digestville — when we get wishful — wish that biofuels had a stronger identity with values instead of blend ratios. That the branding statement of the industry was slightly more compelling than “may contain up to 10% ethanol.”

Which is why we prefer to think in terms of Lincolnfuel. Yep, as in Abraham Lincoln.

Someone who saw a world based on an economic and social system that was unsustainable. Who was willing not only to think different, but act different. Someone who could go beyond the narrow prejudices of his time, the mediocre expectations that attended poorly-educated farm boys in his youth.


The Rail Splitter


One’ man’s rail-splitter is another man’s biomass aggregator.

Lincoln the self-educated man, Lincoln the Rail-Splitter.

One who could imagine something better and was prepared to take steps in that direction. Even if the cost seemed unimaginably high, even if the task seemed impossibly difficult.

Someone whose character was defined not by what was easy or advantageous in the short-term — but around a vision of what is right and what must come, no matter how hard the road might be.

So, Lincolnfuel.

Thinking for yourself

You see, we think there is something important that lies just beyond the list of ingredients, the roster of the blends, the bullet points on the advantages of this molecule compared to that molecule.

Not that comparison shopping is a bad idea  — but let’s face it, people don’t go to convenience stores and gas stations to have a long think about ingredients. Or they wouldn’t probably buy a lot of things that fly off the convenience store shelves.

But customers, even when pulling in to fill up a car, do think about the customer experience and the question “who am I?” Oh, there’s probably somebody out there somewhere who at some stage bought a Porsche without in any way intending to make a personal identity statement. But, not many.

Customer experience? Companies like Propel Fuels are doing an excellent job of helping to redefine the fueling moment for a new generation of drivers and a new generation of fuels.

But who is answering the question that is really on customer’s minds at the pump? The question of You.

I know, right now you think it’s all price, price, price. But is there anything else to think about, excepting price a whole bunch of guff about about ingredients?

Back to that Porsche I mentioned. If all there was to that brand was price, and a list of components, how many would buy one? Is road transportation (whether fuel or car) — I mean, really, truly, in your gut and at the end of the day — forever and only about the most cost-effective way of getting from point A to point B?

There are prices, and there are values.

In all actions in life, there are prices to pay for the actions we take, the things we do. Wrong moves, evil-doing and short-cuts can cost less in cash — but, how do you measure the price of teaching a child to go right, when you go wrong?

Which is why it’s interesting to think of alternative fuel as Lincolnfuel. If not always in its attainments, at least in its ambitions. Because it speaks to the better angels of our nature.

Now, you’d think it’d be classified as a rebel fuel — because it disturbs the status quo. But it’s not for the secessionist, really. Not for the loner, lost in an old idea.

But it is for the one who can go it alone — if you take my meaning. It’s an act of defining oneself “as someone who thinks beyond, acts accordingly, and is confident that in the long run the majority will come around.”

Land of Lincoln in there somewhere.

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