Failure Is Not An Option

Is the ethanol industry too big to fail? No, writes Mike Bryan of BBI International. Will it ever let failure be an option? As Winston Churchill said, never, never, never!
By Mike Bryan | March 18, 2015

This year’s National Ethanol Conference struck on a theme that I think is often overlooked. The overriding theme was not one of hope, but one of sheer commitment to press forward with a spirit of unfaltering determination. While Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, very effectively set the tone of the conference as, “We are here to stay,” it was clear speakers and attendees alike felt the same.

It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Jeff Broin, co-chair of Growth Energy, urged the industry to move ahead and move faster at this years’ Growth Energy Annual Leadership Conference. These are not words of a depressed industry, but words of determination and grit. 

I think that pretty well sums up the attitude of this industry and those who represent this industry not only in Washington, but all across the country. We have come too far, worked too hard and given so much of ourselves that we will never, ever give up. That message needs to resonate loudly and clearly throughout the halls of Congress, and to the lawmakers in all 50 states.

The oil industry continues to receive at least $5 billion a year in federal subsidies. While indeed challenging, losing our tax subsidies was not the death knell it was expected to be, it only made us more determined to press forward. When you have a product that’s less expensive, environmentally superior and is easily assimilated into the market, it’s difficult for even the most ardent opponent to find reasons not to use it.

I have written on several occasions that we are in an awkward position of having our customer (the oil industry) as our greatest adversary. I was wrong about that. The oil industry is not our customer. The consumer is our customer, the environment is our customer and the planet is our customer. The oil industry is merely our distributor. In order to meet growing environmental regulations, the oil industry has few options, with ethanol providing the greatest opportunity at the lowest possible cost. The RFS is critically important because it keeps the feet of an otherwise recalcitrant industry to the fire.

The ethanol industry generates over $80 billion in gross domestic product annually, directly employs over 84,000 people and has investment dollars from tens of thousands of farmers all across the country. The contribution ethanol makes to the environment, the economy and to our national security is beyond question.

Are we too big to fail? No. Will we ever let failure be an option? As Winston Churchill said, never, never, never!

That’s the way I see it.

Author: Mike Bryan
Chairman, BBI International
mbryan@bbiinternational.com