NATSO, SIGMA Exec Testifies on Fuel Diversity in Washington

Fixing transportation supply-chain issues would help economy grow
Trucks parked for nighit
Photograph: Shutterstock

America needs reliable sources of transportation energy at low, stable prices, and diversifying the energy industry by allowing year-round sales of E15 and biodiesel would help accomplish this, along with fixing supply chain issues that have slowed electric-vehicle charging growth, according to David Fialkov, the executive vice president of government affairs at NATSO and SIGMA, trade groups representing travel plazas, truckstops and fuel marketers, who testified before a U.S. House subcommittee Wednesday.

NATSO and SIGMA are aware of no reasonable policy rationale for continuing to restrict year-round sales of E15, and therefore encourage Congress to lift those restrictions as soon as possible,” he said in testifying before the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

On April 28, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency extended sales of E15, a gasoline containing 15% ethanol, from May 1 to May 20 by issuing an emergency fuel waiver for areas without a Reformulated Gasoline Program, but no further information has been provided since then. As of Friday, the agency’s summer ban for states without a Reformulated Gasoline Program hadn’t been further extended. CSP Daily News asked the EPA on May 10 whether the agency would extend the selling period and is awaiting a response.

“You simply cannot have a well-functioning supply chain without an efficient fuel distribution system. That's the role we play,” Fialkov said, according to his written testimony. “It is critically important to recognize the efficiencies of the liquid fuel distribution system and, to every extent possible, replicate those efficiencies as the country transitions to future fuels." The Biden administration has announced s goal of cutting in half greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, in part by developing a national charging network for electric vehicles.

EV Charging

Fialkov supports electric-vehicle charging as one energy option, and he said the existing fuel network is well suited to serve EV drivers. “We think it makes logical sense to site EV charging stations within the existing retail fuel network. We can do it faster and more efficiently than anyone else,” he said.

NATSO and SIGMA are energy agnostic, he said, meaning travel centers, truckstops and fuel marketers will support the fuels or energies their customers want.

Adding EV charging to the mix will further diversify the energy options they offer. But supply chain issues have slowed the arrival of EV charging ports and electric vehicles.

Polar Power Inc. said supply-chain shortages and long delivery times for engines and electronics have lengthened the time between order-placing and delivery of its DC power solutions for EV charging. The company announced Thursday it is taking orders for 2024 delivery of a new line of mobile Combined Charging System electric-vehicle chargers designed to provide fast, temporary EV charges for emergency roadside service, akin to providing a gallon of gas so a car on empty can get to a fuel station to refuel. The new portable charger fits in the back of a tow truck, the company said.

Economic Engine

Fialkov reminded lawmakers of the important role travel centers, fuel marketers and convenience stores serve in communities throughout the nation, calling them “an economic engine for small, disadvantaged and rural communities,” according to his testimony. He cited statistics from the National Association of Convenience Stores’ 2022 State of the Industry Report indicating about nine out of 10 Americans live within 10 miles of a convenience store, which often is one of the few locations open at night. In some communities, these businesses are the largest employer and taxpayer, Fialkov said.

“Most fuel retailers are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and provide restrooms, food and beverage options, sufficient lighting, security and onsite employees to contact law enforcement or emergency medical technician services in the event of an emergency. After natural disasters occur, our industry is often the first up and running to provide necessary services to motorists and first responders,” Fialkov testified.

Fuels retailers want to provide the kind of transportation energy their customers want, he said. “In our experience, consumers desire transportation energy that is delivered quickly, at a convenience location and at a competitive price.”

Competitive Prices

Supply diversity allows retailers to provide a choice of fuels to their customers, and competition keeps prices low and fuel sales profitable, he said. “Fuel sales are profitable because of the volume of sales that occur every day,” he said. But fuel retailers’ margins are among the first to suffer from inflation because they can’t pass along price increases fast enough due to competitive pressures. Increasing the energy supply will result in lower prices, Fialkov said.

The trucking industry is important to improving supply chain issues, Fialkov said. A shortage of qualified truck drivers has contributed to the issue.

“Improving the supply chain is not simply a question of preventing a line of ships waiting for berths at some of the nation’s major ports. It is also a matter of making incremental progress in our surface transportation system to help ensure reliability and efficiency,” Fialkov said. “NATSO and SIGMA encourage Congress to proactively improve the transport of goods and support an effective supply chain as soon as possible.”

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