AUSTIN, Texas -- The results of a newly released consumer survey commissioned by Pavilion Technologies and conducted by Harris Interactive states that many drivers are uneducated when it comes to biofuels.
Despite a surge in production and government support, only a fraction of adult drivers in the United States (5 percent) currently use biofuels such as an ethanol-blend fuel or biodiesel. Education and availability prove to be stumbling blocks on the road to making ethanol a market staple.
The survey found that not only do drivers lack awareness about biofuels, many are misinformed on the subject. Forty-four percent of drivers agreed that they do not understand the difference between biofuels and conventional gasoline. One in four drivers who do not use a biofuel (25%) indicated that they do not know what it is. The overall survey results suggest that many consumers are not aware that ethanol is cheaper and better for the environment than traditional gasoline and that many cars on the road today can run on ethanol blends without modification.
"There has been tremendous innovation within the ethanol industry and manufacturers are using leading-edge technologies to produce more energy-efficient ethanol than ever before," said Matt Tormollen, chief marketing officer, Pavilion Technologies. "The results of this survey demonstrate the critical need to make consumers aware of the benefits of ethanol -- and then to actually make those alternatives available -- in order to ensure the new supply meets demand at the local pump."
Common perceptions and misconceptions that inhibit demand for alternative fuels include:
Like traditional gasoline, ethanol-blend prices fluctuate and vary from region to region. However, at the time of this release, a non-scientific sampling of fuel stations across the U.S. found E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, priced lower or the same as regular unleaded gasoline. In some areas, E85 was as much as $.30 per gallon less than regular unleaded.
Ethanol-blended fuels are approved under the warranties of all auto manufacturers marketing vehicles in the U.S. Any gasoline-powered car manufactured in the U.S. after 1982 can run on a 10 percent ethanol/90 percent gasoline blend, or E10. More than six million flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) currently on the road in the U.S. can use E85. Seventeen million more FFVs are expected on the road this year. Furthermore, any diesel vehicle or diesel engine can run using biodiesel.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, most gas pumps in America do not carry ethanol-blended gasoline today, making it inaccessible for the vast majority of consumers. While the exact number of gas stations that carry some blend of ethanol is unclear, the Renewable Fuels Association indicates fewer than 1,200 retail gas stations, or 1 percent of U.S. gas stations, offer E85.
Motivations for Change
Of drivers who currently do not use biofuels, the overwhelming majority (95 percent) indicated that they could be encouraged to make the switch. When asked what would encourage them to start using a biofuel in their vehicle, the most common response (72 percent) was a lower price than conventional gasoline or diesel fuel.
Convenience was the second most cited response, as about six in ten (61 percent) said that they would switch to biofuels if they were sold at their local gas station. However, proximity is critical: 63 percent of drivers overall indicated that they would not be willing to drive farther to a gas station that sells biofuels.
Drivers who do not currently use biofuels also weighed in with a variety of other responses, most notably: about six in ten (59 percent) cited the desire to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and nearly half (48 percent) would switch if they were offered a tax credit or other financial incentive from the government. In addition, despite the fact that three out of four drivers (75 percent) agreed that they typically opt for the cheapest solution when purchasing fuel, 47 percent indicated that they would pay a premium price for biofuels if they were proven to be better for the environment than conventional gasoline.
This survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive(R) on behalf of Pavilion Technologies between Dec. 11 and Dec. 13, 2006, among 2,534 U.S. adults 18 years of age or older who regularly drive a car, sports utility vehicle, truck, or minivan. Figures for region, age within gender, education, household income and race/ethnicity were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.
With a pure probability sample of 2,534 adults, one could say with a 95-percent probability that the overall results have a sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points. The sampling error for the sub-samples of car drivers who use a biofuel (e.g., ethanol-blend fuel or biodiesel) (n= 128) and car drivers who do not use biofuel (n= 2,406) may be higher and may vary. However, that does not take other sources of error into account. This online survey is not based on a probability sample, and therefore no theoretical sampling error can be calculated.
Harris Interactive is the 12th-largest and fastest-growing market research firm in the world. The company provides research-driven insights and strategic advice to help its clients make more confident decisions which lead to measurable and enduring improvements in performance. Harris Interactive is widely known for The Harris Poll, one of the longest-running, independent opinion polls, and for pioneering online market research methods.
Pavilion Technologies is the leading supplier of control software solutions to the U.S. ethanol industry.
A full copy of research findings is available online. Findings will also be revealed in a Web cast, available for viewing on Feb. 1, 2007, at www.pavtech.com/ethanolsurvey.
SOURCE: Pavilion Technologies via Business Wire.