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Roadside assistance for proud ethanol supporters

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When is the last time you were stranded on the side of the road, wishing you were a member of a motor club? Or, perhaps, you are already a member of a motor club, but that motor club has a habit of bashing ethanol. You need to keep reading.
By Holly Jessen | September 28, 2015

I’ll just cut right to the chase. If you’re looking for an example of a person that should have roadside assistance, but doesn’t, I’m your woman. I’ve been known to lock my keys in my car. I’ve also run out of gas while driving down the road.

I could share some really embarrassing stories, but I think I’ll just move on to my most recent need for roadside assistance. It happened about a month ago, after intense rain that caused flooding in the streets of Grand Forks. My vehicle made it through the first three flooded areas, but stalled out right in front of the turn off to our apartment building. We had to pay for a tow truck out of pocket and our mechanic told us it was hydrolocked. Translation, water was all up in the engine and we were without our second car for more than two weeks, while a refurbished engine was installed.

Every time something like this happens, I think, I should have roadside assistance. But I never actually do anything about it. Ron Lamberty’s column from our February issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine tells me I might not be alone, at least in the “I have difficulty with actually following through with completely reasonable ideas” category.

Lamberty, senior vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, revealed in his column,“I Wish Someone Would Do Something About How Fat I Am,” that not many people in the ethanol industry had, at that time, taken advantage of a pretty good deal offered by Association Motor Club Marketing. Not only does the motor club offer ethanol supporters a discount, but it’s less expensive than AAA, a motor club that is known to bash biofuels.

So, after my latest roadside “adventure,” I decided to talk to Gene Hammond, chairman of the board of both AMCM and Travelers Motor Club, of which he is also president. Here’s what I found out.

As ethanol supporters, for $35, my husband and I (and up to two other family members, if we had other drivers in our household) could have a year of roadside assistance coverage from AMCM. (It’s $25 for a single driver.) If we’d had it before I drove our car into floodwaters, turning it into a giant paperweight, the cost of towing it to our local mechanic would have been covered. (Up to $100.) I could also get assistance for those times I needed a jump start (check), gotten a flat tire (yep), locked my keys in my car (see above) and more.

Let’s get back to that whole discount thing. To get the discount, which is a savings of $10 per year, I have to do is go to the motor club’s website and click on “ethanol supporters” in the top orange line, at the far right side. Here’s a link directly to that page.

If I’d done this before my car was flooded in the street, here’s what would have happened. First, I would have accessed an app on my phone, which signals that someone should call me from one of AMCM’s 11 call centers. The caller would first ask, are you safe? (Answer, wet halfway to my knees and upset, but, yes, safe.) The caller would then ask me to look at a map in the app, which displays a red dot, and ask if that is, indeed, my location. On average, AMCM members wait 31 minutes for assistance, he said, although that number can go up if the system is overloaded with calls, such as during city-wide flooding.

Here’s the next logical question. Why is AMCM offering a discount to ethanol supporters? The answer brings us back to 2012, Hammond told me. He read a front page newspaper article about AAA’s concerns about E15. So he asked AMCM’s claims department to keep tabs on whether any of the motor club’s 19 million members had problems related to ethanol.  “We watched it for 2 years,” he said. “Not one road service call attributed to ethanol, any blend, whether it be 10 or 15 or whatever.” In fact, Hammond feels ethanol has benefited members, since ethanol content in most all fuel the problem of gas freeze up is a thing of the past. “If anything, we have had less road service calls,” he said.

That’s when Hammond got in touch with ACE and Growth Energy. AMCM and Travelers Motor Club went on the record, supporting ethanol. (Lamberty wrote another column about that for our December 2014 issue.)

And that’s how the “ethanol supporters” discount came about. Hammond is a business man. He’s happy to sell AMCM memberships. But that’s not his main motivation. “We would like to have friends of ethanol join our club,” he said. “But. That’s not why we got into this. We got into this just to set the record straight.”

AAA’s fight against E15 just doesn’t make sense to Hammond. As someone born and raised on a South Dakota farm, what does make sense to him is that ethanol has many benefits.  “The reason we are in this fight is, ethanol has made such a difference to rural America,” he said. “The small towns. The farmers. It’s good for economic development and it’s great for America becoming energy independent.”

That’s why, a couple weeks ago, AMCM representatives were in Washington, D.C., with members of Growth Energy. It’s the second time this year the group has been there to tell the story of 19 million members and not one issue with ethanol. And, the more ethanol supporters that sign up by clicking on that button, the stronger the company’s story will be.

The good news is, that number is growing. The company has even been approached by ethanol producers that want to give AMCM memberships to their shareholders, as Christmas gifts. “It’s beginning to find more traction all the time,” he said.

In other news, I need to become a member of AMCM. And, if you are an ethanol supporter that sometimes needs roadside assistance, I think you should too.

Growth Energy proudly supports AMCM

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From The Auto Channel

AAA Remains Clueless With Regard to Beneficial Fuel Alternatives

WASHINGTON, DC – August 3, 2015: Recently the American Automobile Association (AAA) filed comments concerning the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) proposed rule for 2014 through 2016. Once again, AAA has shown its ignorance on issues when it comes to the importance of consumer choice, American jobs and homegrown fuel.

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, noted, “AAA is failing in its mission to look out for the best interests of the consumer. By aligning itself with the oil companies and actively opposing E15, the most tested fuel to date that is less expensive, renewable and a homegrown alternative that offers motorists a choice and savings at the pump, it is showing its true oil-soaked agenda.”

Buis added, “E15 is the most tested fuel ever. The Department of Energy (DOE) tested 86 vehicles, totaling over 6 million miles without any issues regarding engine performance or durability. Furthermore, NASCAR has used E15 for five years, racing nearly 8 million miles in its top three series. To say that ‘E15 is not ready for prime time’ shows AAA’s ignorance about the value-added properties of increased octane, which helps boost engine performance, and reduces emissions, as well as and the benefits that come along with producing E15, such as increased American jobs, a cleaner environment, reduced dependence on foreign oil and a less expensive fuel for consumers.”

“But don’t just take my word – listen to experts in the field who have been working on cars for years,” he added. Gene Hammond and Mark Muncey, the co-owners of Association Motor Club Marketing, which services vehicle owners in all 50 states, have made clear their support for E15, noting they have never seen an issue with the fuel.

Hammond, who has worked in the auto club business for 40 years, said, “Not one of our over 18 million members has called us with a problem related to the new E15 fuel or any ethanol blend. Travelers Motor Club and Association Motor Club Marketing support the use of E15 in vehicles as a safe and affordable alternative to gasoline.”

Muncey, who has nearly 20 years of experience in the motor club business, said, “We decided to research the road service data from our members. Today, four years after EPA approved E15 and two years after AAA declared it was premature, we can say for certain that our members have not reported any problems with E15.”

Hammond concluded, “Our focus is on providing unmatched service to our motor club members, and in our eyes, real-world experience trumps a study paid for by opponents of ethanol every time. In addition to no service calls or complaints about E15, the fact is that winter gas line freeze problems have virtually disappeared due to the increased use of ethanol. If you drive a vehicle that has been approved for the use of E15, and want to try it, we encourage you to try it with confidence.”

Auto Clubs Endorse E15

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by Chuck Beck from Ethanol Today Magazine

Untitled-2

AMCM & ACE talk with media via conference call.

Untitled-1The E15 fuel blend (gas with 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline) is getting the thumbs up from two national motor club organizations.

Recently, Gene Hammond and Mark Muncey, co-owners of the Association Motor Club Marketing (AMCM) and Travelers motor clubs, announced that the over 18 million Americans their motor clubs serve have never experienced any problems with the E15 fuel blend since the fuel became available in 2012.

Hammond notes their stance is different from other motor clubs.

“For the past two years, AAA has lobbied the federal government to suspend sales of E15, suggesting it could void warranties or cause engine damage. Following the approval of E15 we began examining our road service data and found no evidence ethanol has caused any problems for our members. We support the EPA decision to approve E15 for use in cars and light trucks starting with the model year 2001.

“Ultimately our focus is on our members, and in our eyes, real-world experience trumps a study every time. During my 40 years in the motor club business, not only have I not seen an increase in service calls that were fuel-related, but we have yet to have one of our over 18 million members call us with a problem related to the use of ethanol,” Hammond said.

Hammond notes that using E15 provides an economic benefit that motor club members should not overlook.

“Recent statistics show that E15 has been priced 30 to 40 cents lower than straight gasoline and 3 to 10 cents lower than regular which contains ten percent ethanol. But more importantly, giving drivers more choices at the pump means competition for traditional grades of gasoline, and that creates lower prices across the board. Whether a consumer uses E15 or not, we feel merely having it in the marketplace will help everyone save money when they fill up,” Hammond said.

Muncey says the endorsement by both motor clubs should send a strong message to retailers.

“We believe E15 is a much needed product across this country, we feel it will help consumers everywhere by giving them more choices at the pump,” Muncey said.

ACE senior vice president Ron Lamberty agrees, saying it’s important to have the motor clubs speak out and share their stories on what their members have seen, and more importantly haven’t seen, when it comes to using E15.

“Real-world results trump ghost stories, and the real-world findings of these two auto clubs mirror what we have heard from fuel station owners who sell E15: they’ve had no customer complaints, no breakdowns, and no repair bills from drivers who fill up with E15. In fact, because E15 is a higher octane fuel that costs less than regular, stations with E15 are gaining customers and E15 has become the second highest volume fuel in most of the stations that sell it,” Lamberty said.

Lamberty says he’s hopeful that this announcement will help put to rest some of the myths and lies the Big Oil lobby and AAA have tried to spread over E15.

“With all the time, money, and lobbying anti-ethanol groups have put in to this E15 ghost story, if there were any cars stranded because of E15 or if there was a single warranty claim denied because of E15, we would have heard about it by now. The car owner would be a household name. It hasn’t happened, and it’s not going to happen.”

ACE members receive discounted AMCM membership

Many ACE members and ethanol supporters have grown tired of AAA’s attacks and are looking for an alternative auto club. That’s why in addition to working with Travelers and AMCM to coordinate their support of E15, ACE has established a partnership specifically with AMCM to allow ACE members to join its motor club by going to www. amcm-online.com where they will receive an additional $10 discount from the $35 membership fee when they join online. That’s only $25 annually for AMCM motor club benefits like towing/winching assistance, battery assistance, flat tire assistance, lock-out assistance, fuel and oil delivery, fluid and water delivery, hotel and travel discounts, 5% cash back hotel program, $500 hit and run/ theft reward, and more.

At press time, a number of ACE members had taken steps to share the message about the AMCM discount for biofuels supporters: Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company sent the information to its 952 shareholders, Glacial Lakes Energy shared it with its 1,000 member email list, and the Missouri Corn Growers Association passed it on to its 2,700 members. If you would like to share this information with your members or shareholders, contact ACE at 605-334-3381 to request printed materials and/or a shareable electronic message.

 

“Our members have not reported any problems with E-15” – Travelers Motor Club

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(OKLAHOMA CITY, OK. October 27, 2014) – Gene Hammond and Mark Muncey, co-owners of Travelers Motor Club and Association Motor Club Marketing, which serve vehicle owners in all 50 States, today announced their support for the new E-15 fuel blend (15 percent ethanol and 85 percent petroleum in motor gasoline).

Hammond, who has worked in the auto club business for 40 years said, “Not one of our over 18 million members has called us with a problem related to the new E-15 fuel or any ethanol blend. Travelers Motor Club and Association Motor Club Marketing support the use of E-15 in vehicles as a safe and affordable alternative to gasoline.”

Muncey, who has nearly 20 years of experience in the motor club business said, “We decided to research the road service data from our members. Today, four years after EPA approved E-15 and two years after AAA declared it was premature, we can say for certain that our members have not reported any problems with E-15. We support the use of E-15 in vehicles approved by EPA to use the fuel.”

“Our focus is on providing unmatched service to our motor club members, and in our eyes, real-world experience trumps a study paid for by opponents of ethanol every time. In addition to no service calls or complaints about E-15, the fact is that winter gas line freeze problems have virtually disappeared due to the increased use of ethanol. If you drive a vehicle that has been approved for the use of E-15 and want to try it, we encourage you to try it with confidence,” said Hammond.

For more information about Travelers Motor Club and Association Motor Club Marketing, visit us online at www.travelersmotorclub.com and www.amcm-online.com. You can also follow us on Twitter at @TravelersMC and @amcm_online.

AAA issues warnings on E15

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Ethanol supports denounce advice, say EPA study proved blend is safe

Staff and wire reports

Ethanol backers are fuming after the AAA indicated the Envirionmental Protection Agency and gasoline retailers should halt the sale of E15, a new ethanol-gasoline blend that AAA says could damage millions of vehicles and void car warranties.

The motor club, which issued its warning Thursday, says only 12 million of more than 240 million cars, trucks, and SUVs in use have manufacturers approval for E15. Flex-fuel vehicles, 2012 and newer GM vehicles, 2013 Fords and 2001 and newer Porsches are the exceptions, according to the AAA.

“It is clear that millions of Americans are unfamiliar with E15, which means there is a strong possibility many may improperly use E15 and damage their vehicle,” AAA chief Robert Darbelnet said Thursday.

BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota, and VW have said their warranties will not cover fuel-related claims caused by E15. Ford, Honda, Kia, Merdedes-Benz and Volvo have said E15 use will void warranties, and Darbelnet, citing potential corrosive damage to fuel lines, gaskets and components.

But ethanol backers say the two-year 6-million mile EPA study that led to the approval of E15 in June verified the blend is safe to use in cars newer than 2001. Brian Jennings, executive vice president for the American Coalition for Ethanol, called the AAA recommendation “disappointing.”

“They have zero proof to back up the claim that E15 will cause damage.”

Gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol has become standard at most U.S. gas stations, spurred by federal mandates to use more renewable energy sources and reduce foreign oil dependence. The Environmental Protection Agency approved the use of E15 – a 15 percent blend – despite objections from auto makers and the oil industry.

E15 has been available at a handful of Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota stations since summer. EPA stickers affixed to gas pimps say it’s safe for use in almost all vehicles 2001 and newer.

AAAL uncertainty

The AAA – in an unusual warning for a travel organization 00 says E15 sales should be stopped until there is more testing, more effective pump labels and more extensive consumer education.

The AAA – in an unusual warning for a travel organization – says E15 sales should be stopped…”

“The basis for the warning is we just don’t know right now what the long term effects will be on engines,” Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA South Dakota, said Friday. “There could be nothing or there could be something there. The studies really are inconclusive.”

The National Association of Convenience Stores said it’s worried about E15 damaging gas station issues. “There is too much uncertainty related to consumer demand and liability protection,” spokesman Jeff Lenard said.

But others say the EPA decision now should let the market decide the fate of E15.

“Let the public decide,” said Bruce Vollan, co-owner of Vollan Oil Co. and Midway Service station on Highway 115 north of Sioux Falls. “When you have a blender pump, the consumer essentially gets to pull up to the gas pimp and vote. It’s all about the choice.”

Vollan said since his store began selling E15, it’s one of the best-selling fuel blends, and he hasn’t heard any customers say they’ve had any adverse effects from using it.

Bob Dinneen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said E15 is safe for virtually all post-2001 vehicles.

“It’s probably a nickel a gallon cheaper than E10. I would say out of five different blends we have, on any given day (E15) is probably the second or third most popular blend.”

Vollan’s station is the closest E15 provider to the Sioux Falls area.

Bob Dinneen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association said E15 is safe for virtually all post-2001 vehicles. “We think the (EPA) warning label should be sufficient,” he said.

Oil and auto study

The three-year study by automakers and the oil industry cited by AAA that shows E15 was linked to engine and fuel system failure is the latest barrage of criticism for the ethanol industry.

The National Council of Chain Restaurants and API, which represents energy giants such as Exxon-Mobil and ConocoPhillips, have urged Congress to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard put in place in 2005, saying the RFS has driven up corn prices and resulted in other unintended consequences.

“It’s just too coincidental for me to think that this is anything else besides the next push to try and eliminate the competition for big oil and try to turn back the clock and try to get $2 corn for farmers,” said Ron Lamberty, senior vice president of the American Coalition for Ethonal.

Mai insists AAA’s position is in the interest of motorists.

“We’re not afraid to tell it like it is. We’re not in anybody’s back pocket, and we’re not funded by anybody but our members,” he said. “We want the public to be informed and not put fuel in their vehicle that may do damage. We’d rather err on the side of caution”

There’s been more testing done on ethanol than oil. The ethanol industry… just simply wants market access. Our country is in desperate need to find a homegrown renewable, so this is about the future.”

Because E15 isn’t widely used, halting the sale of the blend might not have much effect on corn farmers or other ethanol related businesses, said Lisa Richardson, executive director of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, but it will restrict the ability of the U.S. to shake its dependence on foreign oil and nonrenewable sources of energy.

“There’s been more testing done on ethanol than oil,” she said “The ethanol industry… just simple wants market access. Our country is in desperate need to find a homegrown renewable, so this is about the future.”

The Argus Leader’s Joe Sneve and the USA Today’s Gary Strauss contributed