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Ethanol industry in a war, stakeholders called to action

Tom Buis (right), Growth Energy, spoke with Tom Bryan, president of BBI, during a panel discussion focused on the RFS this week at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop.

Some 1,700 people attended the Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) in St. Louis this week, with the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) weighing heavy on their minds. Mike Bryan, CEO, BBI International, the annual event’s sponsor, opened the conference asking audience members if they were angry about the escalation of ethanol bashing. “We are at war, and not one we wanted or started,” he said, adding that over the last 30 years, he has never witnessed such a high level of attacks on ethanol by opponents (primarily the oil industry).

Bryan warned that the oil industry willnot use ethanol blends if the RFS is eliminated. “This is a very big deal, and it’s time that we, as stakeholders, say ‘enough.’” While the ethanol industry has “generals in the field,” in the form of lobbyists from the Renewable Fuel Association (RFA), Growth Energy and the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), Bryan called stakeholders to action by fighting for ethanol in their state assemblies, the media and the halls of Congress.

Bryan’s opening remarks set the stage for a panel discussion featuring the ethanol industry’s three largest organizations: Bob Dinneen, Renewable Fuel Association; Tom Buis, Growth Energy; and Brian Jennings, American Coalition for Ethanol. (Tom Buis, was selected as one of Washington’s top 50 lobbyists in 2009, and was formerly president of the National Farmers Union.)

Buis said that the attack on the RFS is really an attempt by the oil industry to protect its share of the immense fuel market. “Follow the money,” Buis told the FEW audience. While ethanol’s opponents argue that domestic production (in the form of fracking, for example) has increased, Buis points out that fuel prices haven’t decreased. In fact, gas prices have recently exceeded $4.00 per gallon throughout the Midwest, he said.

ACE’s Jennings added, “How do you reduce gas prices? Use ethanol.” Buis also called for the ethanol industry’s stakeholders to be engaged with their policymakers. “Squeaky wheels get the grease, and if Oil is pounding on their doors, they are going to get hearings.”

The panelists referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s recent review of the RFS. (Note: The RFS was created in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and was expanded under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The House Committee has reported, “It has been more than five years since the RFS was last revised, and we now have a wealth of actual implementation experience with it. In some respects, the RFS has unfolded as expected, but in others it has not. Several implementation challenges have emerged that received little if any consideration prior to passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Furthermore, the overall energy landscape has changed since 2007. It is time to undertake an assessment of the RFS.”)

Fuels America, a coalition of which the three organizations represented on the FEW panel belong, sent a letter in support of the RFS to House Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA). Visit

The House Committee hasposed a number of questions for discussion. Stakeholders are requested to respond by June 21, 2013, to

If you care about the future of ethanol and the positive impacts it has had on farm income, rural economic development, job creation, the environment and national energy security, call your elected officials or respond to the House Committee request now.

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