Present Day Ethanol Trumps Good Ol’ Days

Although there are challenges and there's still much work to be done, the ethanol industry is in a better place now than it was in the so-called good ol' days, writes Mike Bryan of BBI International.
By Mike Bryan | May 19, 2015

Some long for the good ol’ days, when cars were simple and you could do much of the repair work yourself. When in the evening the 9 o’clock whistle blew and you had to get home, or writing a letter meant pen and paper.

Myself, I’m glad we no longer live in the good ol’ days. I don’t want to work on my car. The cars today are much more reliable and more fun to drive. I really am not terribly concerned that kids spend more time on the computer than they do playing outside. It’s the age we live in and they are preparing themselves for a new and exciting future. Frankly, I like being able to send an email rather than sit down and handwrite a letter, and I am a better communicator as a result.

I’ve heard some say that they long for the good ol’ days of the ethanol industry, when it was young and we all felt a sense of comradery and we knew who the enemy was.  Frankly, I’m not interested in reliving the past of the ethanol industry either. It was often painful. We are much more sophisticated now, we have years of research under our belts and can stand toe-to-toe with the enemy rather than throw rocks and sticks at them, as that’s all we had back then.

I don’t think there is a better time to be in this industry, with technology moving forward at breakneck pace. We have matured and replaced the rocks and sticks with billions of miles of trouble-free consumer use and reams of data that substantiate the viability and performance of ethanol. We have a whole new generation of bright young talent working in the industry who will carry us into the next tier of success.

Many of us remember when a woman named Roberta Nichols from Ford Motor Co. introduced the first flexible fuel vehicle. Exciting as it was, it seems so long ago now, given where things are with E85 today. The good ol’ days sometimes consisted of organizing corn farmers to stand at service stations handing out ethanol brochures and offering to fill the customer’s car up for them, just to get product recognition. While it was fun at the time, I don’t want to do that anymore.

There are lots of things that had to be done to get the industry where it is today, that most of us who did them would not really want to do again. The young talent in the industry today are creating their own good ol’ days and a decade or two from now will likely write a column reminiscing about those days, glad that they don’t have to relive them.

Personally, I’m happy where the industry is today, still with challenges, still with much work to be done, but with the ability to do that work on a much more level playing field. We have set aside the rocks and sticks and replaced them irrefutable facts and a mountain of well-researched data. We have moved from a niche industry to a major contributor to energy security, cleaner air and economic stability.

So for me, while I may look back from time to time with fond memories of the battles and the things we did to build the industry, I think now is the best time ever to be in the ethanol industry. Besides, there is little need to look back, because, before you know it, today will be one of the good ol’ days.

That’s the way I see it.

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