SIGMA Sets Its Legislative Priorities

Published in CSP Daily News

Renewable fuels, SNAP, swipe fees among top issues

By  Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor

Stewart Spinks

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In outlining its top legislative priorities, SIGMA's Legislative Committee very much returned to its core: fuel issues.

In recent years, the gasoline-marketer group has taken a hard line on several retailing issues--swipe fees, tobacco taxes, etc. And while those issues remain concerns, the committee, assembling during SIGMA's Annual Meeting in Charlotte, N.C., hit hard on renewable fuel matters, underground storage tanks and fuel taxes, among other issues.

Regarding renewable fuels, attorney Tim Columbus cited the recent volume requirement update issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and noted one significant difference from previous updates.

"EPA has, in the past, reduced the renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for cellulosic biofuels to reflect the lack of commercial production of the fuels, but has not previously adjusted the RVOs for traditional biofuels, such as corn-based ethanol," an issue briefing book noted. "This proposal, however, does reduce the corn-based ethanol obligations."

While Columbus expects corn-grower groups will have much to say about the recommended changes, he said SIGMA, and likely several other groups, including animal farmers who have been concerned about feed costs, "will be very supportive of this."

In getting a pulse on how well ethanol-based fuels, particularly E-85, are performing at the retail level, Columbus asked retailers attending the session for feedback. It came most strongly from Stewart Spinks, CEO of Spinx Corp., which has actively promotes E-85, placing it on multiple pumps at it stores, pricing it fairly and marketing it, with few positive results.

"We embraced that product with little results," he said. "It accounts for less than 1.5% of my fuel volume. The consumer has rejected the product."

Other top issues addressed by the committee included:

  • SNAP/Food Stamps. The latest proposal in Washington "would restrict small retailers' ability to accept SNAP," Columbus said, as lobbying groups aim to have the food stamps used only to purchase healthy options. SIGMA's counsel, however, noted "most supermarkets sell tobacco, hot food and … alcohol. Because such products generate a smaller percentage of supermarkets' revenue compared to convenience stores does not mean consumers are more inclined to make healthier purchases there."
  • Credit- and Debit-Card Swipe Fees. The fees taken on every credit- or debit-card transaction continue to be argued in court and in Congress. Columbus said he is optimistic the fees will eventually be reduced to 11 cents or so per transaction with the issue coming to resolution sometime in September.

The Society of Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA) is a nonprofit, national trade association representing the independent motor fuel marketers and chain retailers in the United States. Its approximately 250 corporate members account for about 30% of the petroleum retail market, selling more than 56 billion gallons of motor fuel a year.

By Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor
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