WASHINGTON - The House Energy and Commerce Committee€™s Subcommittee on Energy and Power is continuing its exploration of the challenges and opportunities of alternative fuels and vehicles in a hearing today at 10 am (EST). On behalf of NACS and SIGMA, Joe Petrowski, CEO of the Cumberland Gulf Group in Framingham, Massachusetts, is sharing with the subcommittee the current situation facing the retail marketplace, and is presenting recommendations for Congress as it considers options for increasing the use of alternative and renewable fuels as part of a future energy strategy.
"Our sole objective is to sell what our customers want to buy and, as new fuels enter the market, we want to be able to sell them lawfully and with minimal volatility and risk," noted Petrowski in his written comments, adding: "We have to make decisions each day regarding what products to sell and which services to offer to our customers, and we often take risks €" you cannot be successful without doing so. But taking a chance by offering a new food product is very different from switching my fueling infrastructure to accommodate a new fuel. So when a new fuel product becomes available, our decision to offer it to our customers takes more time. We need to know that our customers want to buy it, that we can generate enough return to justify the investment, and that we can sell the fuel legally."
Petrowski urged support of H.R. 4345, the Domestic Fuels Protection Act of 2012, that addresses three of current industry obstacles: infrastructure compatibility, liability for consumer misuse of fuels, and retroactive liability of the rules governing a fuel change in the future. He also commented on how proposed fuel economy standards might unintentionally impede retailers€™ ability to comply with other EPA regulations. "In particular, there is concern that the proposed standards may render it extremely difficult and expensive to satisfy the requirements of the RFS [renewable fuels standard]. €¦The proposed CAFE standards will serve to exacerbate the difficulties associated with implementing the RFS, and make H.R. 4345 even more crucial to reaching our objectives with regards to alternative fuels."
In conclusion, Petrowski said that if Congress is serious about new and alternative fuels energy entering the marketplace, action must be taken to lower the cost of entry and remove the threat of unreasonable liability.
"Only then will more retailers be willing to take a risk and offer a new renewable fuel. By lowering the barriers to entry, Congress will give the market an opportunity to express its will and allow retailers to offer consumers more choice. This is what retailers want €" consumer choice. If consumers reject the new fuel, the retailer can reverse the decision without sacrificing a significant investment, but new fuels will be given a better opportunity to successfully penetrate the market."
Today€™s hearing is being broadcast live through the Energy and Commerce Committee€™s website and marks the subcommittee€™s 23rd day of a multi-day hearing on "The American Energy Initiative." Witnesses are testifying on the status of the RFS, flex-fuel vehicles, and other federal and private-sector efforts to encourage the development and use of alternative fuels and vehicles. NACS is tweeting live from the hearing.