The pain of change away from oil

Individual acts of community involvement make the pain of continuing down the path of Big Oil harder and harder to justify, writes Mike Bryan. This column appears in the April issue of EPM.
By Mike Bryan | March 18, 2016

The old saying “nothing changes until the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change” certainly applies to the automotive fuels market in America. The pain of staying the same continues to mount as America struggles to reduce automobile emissions and meet its global environmental objectives. Yet, apparently the pain is not sufficient to convince some in Congress that there is a better way, a cleaner way, a less painful way forward.

Objection to the renewable fuel standard (RFS) is simply a smoke screen, designed to confuse the issue, with the sole intention of trying to keep the ethanol industry on its heels. Much of what the oil industry is espousing regarding the RFS is not factually correct, nor in some instances even consistent with the intent of the law. Twists turns and tweaks, by those trying to stop the RFS, are all designed to impress on the U.S. EPA and Congress that the pain of moving away from oil is greater than that of moving forward on the path of renewable energy.

I have written many times in this column about the contributions the ethanol industry makes not only to our fuel supply and our environment, but to rural communities all across the country. That message seems to get lost in the smoke and mirrors of the RFS debate. Anyone who thinks the diversion of attention from our contribution to agriculture and rural America is not intentional or, at the very least, collateral damage is not paying attention. Like the magician who keeps your focus on the handkerchief while he slips off your watch.

Dan Sanders, vice president of Front Range Energy, recently spoke out at the Growth Energy Leadership Conference in Orlando about the impact Front Range Energy has had on the local community and how they take pride and great care in making sure they are part of the community. Front Range Energy has raised more than $142,000 to help veterans with an annual golf tournament. We don’t seem to talk about that very much, but I’ll bet the farm that people in Windsor, Colorado, talk about it, as do the people in hundreds of other communities across the country where ethanol is produced.

These are the kind of things that put pressure on Congress to keep pushing forward with ethanol. These individual acts of community involvement make the pain of continuing down the path of Big Oil harder and harder to justify. But only if we tell the story over and over again at every opportunity. As Dan Sanders pointed out, the ethanol story is much bigger than the RFS, and it’s much bigger than frivolous and diversionary lawsuits. The real story of ethanol lies in the community, in the contribution to agriculture and in the lives of hundreds of thousands of men and women who can now stay and work in those communities.

The oil industry may yet not even realize it, but the pain of staying the same is mounting with each passing year, and as that happens the pain of moving to renewable energy gets less and less.

That’s the way I see it.

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