Thanking Tom Buis— A Strong Voice for the Ethanol Industry

Anyone who has spent time with Tom Buis knows his love for the ethanol industry is unquestionable. This column is published in the June issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine.
By Jeff Broin | May 21, 2016

There are a number of hardworking people in this world who push to be the very best in their field. These are valuable individuals who strive for excellence, and they can accomplish many things.

But these people generally are not the game-changers. Game changers must demonstrate more than a commitment to excellence to truly make a difference. They need commitment to the cause.

Tom Buis is in that latter group, a man who has spent his life improving the lives of people around the world through staunch advocacy for renewable fuels and agriculture. As you probably know, Tom is stepping aside as CEO of Growth Energy and moving into a role as co-chair for the organization.

Anyone who has spent any time with him, knows his love for this industry is unquestionable.

Tom is first and foremost a farmer and a citizen of America. He possesses a passion for using the boundless potential of agriculture to make our world better, and it is a passion that could only come from working the land himself as a Midwestern farmer. I and many others can attest to late-night phone calls from Tom to discuss late-breaking information on one issue or another. As he often put it, defending ethanol is “like playing Whack-A-Mole at the county fair.” Morning, noon or night, Tom Buis has never been off the clock in fighting for this industry.

That passion and energy has translated to very real benefits. From its first day, Tom helped start and expand Growth Energy. Under his careful watch, Growth Energy accumulated a long list of accomplishments for the ethanol industry. They include:

- Submission and approval of the Green Jobs Waiver to allow E15 into 21st century engines.

- Growth Energy involvement in Prime the Pump and work with the USDA Biofuels Infrastructure Program to bring thousands of blender pumps into the marketplace.

- A NASCAR contract and racing sponsorship to promote E15 to millions of consumers each week.

- Foreign market development initiatives including partnerships with the U.S. Grains Council for marketing and trade missions.

- America’s Renewable Future and the campaign that succeeded in making ethanol the top topic for presidential candidates in Iowa and increased the number of people caucusing for pro-RFS candidates in 2016 over 2012.

- Submitting tens of thousands of comments to the U.S. EPA for the 2014-’16 rule on renewable volume obligations that eventually broke the blend wall for the first time.

- Major partnerships with retailers such as Sheetz, Minnoco, Murphy USA, Kum & Go and Thortons for E15 development.

- And much, much more.

On top of all that is the fact that during Tom’s time as CEO of Growth Energy, there were no legislative changes to the renewable fuel standard (RFS), despite the fact that this was the top priority for the American Petroleum Institute and other special interests, with challenges that included hostile congressional hearings and a severe drought. Tom worked with the administration and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to build friendships and support to ensure legislation would not pass, if introduced.

None of these things could have been accomplished alone, and Tom’s ability to foster collaboration and teamwork within the ethanol industry was invaluable in making each of these items a reality. Tom quite simply is a smart, kind and personable man who draws others to him, and that quality should not be underestimated.

For these reasons and more, I’m glad that Tom will serve with me as co-chair of Growth Energy. He has set the stage well for continued excellence as we welcome our new CEO, Emily Skor, on board.

Tom Buis deserves a break after all he’s done for this industry and agriculture. But if you know him as well as I do, you know he’ll never take one. Even though his role has changed, Tom will remain one of the strongest champions for ethanol.

Author: Jeff Broin
Chairman and CEO, Poet LLC
Co-chair, Growth Energy Board of Directors