Ethanol purchase intent increases among American consumers


OMAHA, Neb. – Seventy-three percent of American consumers are likely to purchase ethanol-enriched fuel, according to the results of a new national tracking study by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.
This represents a nine percent increase in purchase intent since January 2005.
Seeing benefits. In addition, nearly 90 percent of those who are familiar with ethanol associate the fuel with its many positive benefits.
The environmentally friendly properties of ethanol-enriched fuels were most frequently mentioned, including its reduction of harmful tailpipe emissions when compared to unleaded gasoline.
Ethanol is a renewable fuel, which many motorists indicated as a major reason for their favorable rating.
“Our prior in-market studies have shown that a little education about ethanol moves consumers to choose it at the pump. This research points us to the type of educational outreach that needs to be made to allow the consumer to be more familiar with ethanol and its benefits,” said Tom Slunecka, executive director of EPIC.
Fuel mixes. Most of the ethanol-enriched fuel used in the U.S. is 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline (E10). Any of today’s cars can run on E10.
Fuel containing 85 percent ethanol (E85) is also gaining in popularity, with new pumps coming online daily.
E85 can only be used in flexible-fuel vehicles, which are specially designed to use either gasoline, E85 or any combination of the two.
“Despite prolific media coverage of ethanol in recent months, awareness of its availability is lower than expected,” said Slunecka.
The lack of consistent nationwide pump labeling standards may be one of the reasons.
The study showed that consumer awareness of ethanol’s availability increases with the presence of ethanol signage at the pump, Slunecka said.
Confused. Ethanol-enriched fuel is now blended in nearly 40 percent of all fuel sold in the U.S., though the survey results show that consumers are confused about the various terms such as E10, E85 and cellulosic ethanol.
“Despite this uncertainty, ethanol-enriched fuel is making a difference by providing an additive that is helping the U.S. meet increasing demands for fuel,” said Reece Nanfito, senior director of marketing for EPIC.
Categories. Motorists who responded to the survey expressed various motivations for using ethanol and were categorized in four groups by the similarity of their responses.
The most likely group to use ethanol was the “loyal environmental activists,” who were characterized by a deep concern for the environment and a desire to help the American economy by using a home-grown fuel source.
This group also voiced concern about U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
“To the loyal environmental activists, choosing ethanol is more about choosing a fuel that fits their beliefs and lifestyle,” said Nanfito. “They clearly equate buying ethanol to doing their part for the environment.”
Independence. “Patriotic and cost conscious motorists,” the second-most likely group to purchase ethanol, are more motivated by ethanol’s potential to help the U.S. achieve energy independence.
The “value seekers” group was less aware of ethanol’s benefits and more motivated by the price of fuel.
The “generally indifferent” respondents showed some concern for reducing dependence on foreign oil, but also indicated a desire to know more about ethanol before purchasing it.
More interest. “We’re seeing more consumers who value ethanol for its benefits and who will actively seek it out,” said Nanfito.
“Consumers have begun to change their buying habits and choose fuel that is good for the American economy, good for the environment and good for their vehicles. EPIC is working with many groups and industry leaders to provide information about ethanol to as many American consumers as possible.”
The study. The survey was conducted in May 2006 by Luth Research, an independent research firm. An online survey tool was administered to 1,034 consumers who were between the ages of 18 and 54 and drove a vehicle three or more times per week.
The respondents were split equally between males and females and were representative of the national population who drive a vehicle at least three times per week.


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