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UPDATED: Unspecified “Political” Influences Cancel Previously Approved Discounted Gasoline Offer for Memorial Day

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Brazilian Sugarcane Ethanol Industry Still Plans to Help DC Drivers Reduce Summer Fuel Costs; Group Will Give Away Free Fuel Cards While Supplies Last

Washington, DC – One week after approving the event and less than 24 hours after allowing promotional banners to be hung on its property, Capitol Petroleum Group cancelled plans by the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) to offer Washington-area residents a discount of 54-cents per gallon on gasoline purchased at two Exxon stations on Capitol Hill. A company representative, citing unspecified “political” reasons, abruptly ended UNICA’s plans to help DC drivers keep a little extra money in their pockets for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

“Open market competition and free speech are two fundamental principles that have made the United States a global leader,” observed Joel Velasco, UNICA’s chief representative in North America.  “It’s a shame that those values don’t seem to apply in this situation.”

The one-day event would have highlighted the current 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol, which makes gas more expensive for Americans. The event would have also educated drivers about the benefits of sugarcane ethanol – a clean and affordable renewable fuel that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 60 percent compared to gasoline and could help the United States cut its dependence on oil from the Middle East.

“While we are unclear who caused this sudden shift in plans, one thing is certain: consumers win when businesses have to compete in an open market, because competition produces higher quality products at lower costs,” Velasco said.  “UNICA will continue advocating for open market competition by encouraging Congress to end the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol.”

“UNICA is still committed to making summer vacation a little less expensive and is working on details to make this discount a reality for Washingtonians,” concluded Velasco.  The group is now planning to give away a substantial number of gasoline cards instead on a first-come, first-served basis.  Anyone who lives or works within 25 miles of Washington, D.C., can log on to to register for a free gas card while supplies last.

Following is a timeline of activities, from UNICA’s initial outreach to the gas stations to Capitol Petroleum Group’s (CPG) decision to cancel the gas discount events:

Tuesday, May 11

  • UNICA’s communications team called two Capitol Hill gas stations to express interest in organizing a discounted gasoline promotion; team was asked to call back the following morning to speak with the owners.

Wednesday, May 12

  • UNICA’s communications team called owners at both stations and followed up with in-person site visits. UNICA’s communications team fully disclosed the events’ goals to promote the benefits of sugarcane ethanol and urge elimination of the tariff on imported ethanol.
  • One station (Station A) approved the event and the other station (Station B) informed UNICA’s communications team that the station would need approval by CPG’s retail account manager.
  • UNICA’s communications team called CPG’s retail account manager to review event details, and fully disclosed UNICA’s goals to promote the benefits of sugarcane ethanol and urge elimination of the tariff on imported ethanol.  At the request of CPG’s retail account manager, UNICA’s communications team began developing a written overview detailing event plans.

Thursday, May 13

  • UNICA’s communications team faxed the written event plan to CPG’s retail account manager and e-mailed it to Station A.  That plan described the event’s objective as:  “Use the start of the summer driving season (just prior to Memorial Day) and high gas prices to educate Washington area residents about the benefits of sugarcane ethanol as a clean and affordable renewable fuel.  Raise awareness about a $.54 per gallon tax on all imported ethanol, letting drivers know that if Congress allows this tax [to] expire instead of renewing it, Americans could save money at the pump.”
  • Station A responded via e-mail saying “looks good.”  UNICA’s communications team held a follow-up call with CPG’s retail account manager who confirmed receiving the fax and provided verbal approval to proceed with the event.

Friday, May 14

  • UNICA’s communications team held in-person site visits at both stations with a sign production vendor to plan for onsite event signs. CPG’s retail account manager and both station owners gave UNICA’s communications team approval to hang one banner during the week of May 17 for advance promotion.
  • CPG’s retail account manager called UNICA’s communications team to ask if UNICA wanted to extend the May 25 fuel discount to additional stations in Washington, DC, particularly in Georgetown. UNICA’s communications team informed CPG’s retail account manager that we appreciated the offer, but would limit the promotion to the two Capitol Hill stations he had already approved.

Monday, May 17 to Thursday, May 20

  • UNICA’s communications team held multiple phone calls and site visits with CPG’s retail account manager and the station owners to prepare for the event.

Friday, May 21

  • Station B gave UNICA’s communications team a written invoice requesting a $3,240 advance payment as a deposit for the May 25 fuel discount.
  • UNICA’s communications team hung promotional banners at each station with approval from CPG’s retail account manager and the station owners.
  • At approximately 9:00 pm, CPG’s retail account manager called UNICA’s communications team saying that Capitol Petroleum Group was cancelling the event.

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The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) is the leading trade association for the sugarcane industry in Brazil, representing nearly two-thirds of all sugarcane production and processing in the country. UNICA’s priorities include serving as a source for credible information and analysis about the efficiency and sustainability of sugarcane products, particularly its biofuels. The association works to encourage the continuous advancement of sustainable practices throughout the sugarcane industry and to promote biofuels as a clean, reliable alternative to fossil fuels. To learn more, visit

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Ana Carolina Lessa
Public Affairs, North America
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