Forging a New Path for Biofuels in 2017

Growth Energy's new communications director outlines the organization's goals for 2017 in the February print issue's Drive column.
By Chris Hogan | January 24, 2017

Donald Trump won’t be our first president to use Twitter, but it’s increasingly clear that he will be our first Twitter president. Not long ago, breaking news was born in a crowded press conference, and consumers looked to newspapers and broadcast journalists to learn the latest about the forces shaping our world. Today, the traditional news media is where we go to hear what others are saying about something we first learned about on social media. It’s a topsy-turvy world, and those who cannot keep up risk being left behind. It’s also an incredible opportunity for an industry like ours, with great news to share and a widespread network of passionate biofuel advocates who can help introduce our product in places that we have never been before.

That’s why Growth Energy is hard at work strengthening the lines of communication between farmers, advocates, consumers, retailers, automotive experts, policymakers and community leaders from all walks of life. Together, this network will be the driving force for change that brings new options to the pump in areas of the country where blends like E15 are an unknown quantity.

Through research and experience, we have learned that meaningful change requires meaningful conversations. Millennials, women, environmentalists and other fast-growing groups are far more likely to purchase and support ethanol when they’ve first been given an opportunity to learn about its benefits. But these can’t be the same conversations taking place in the D.C. Beltway or the Corn Belt. Lawmakers need to hear about the surplus of grain that threatens to derail rural economies and the maneuverings of Saudi Arabia to manipulate global energy prices. Both are great reasons to support homegrown biofuels, but, outside of Washington, neither argument has the motivating power of a trusted neighbor sharing an easy tip for keeping their engine running well while protecting the air we breathe.

These are the voices that must be mobilized to change consumer behavior and drive demand for ethanol. And when consumers speak, they have the power to reshape how our leaders in Washington approach solutions to challenges like energy security, climate change, economic growth and public health—all of which demand a robust commitment to biofuels.

One of the best assets we have in this effort is our partnerships with retailers. According to the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing, there are more than 156,000 fueling stations across the country. About half of all these gas stations are unbranded and do not sell fuel under contract with one of the major oil refiners. That means they are free to make biofuels like ethanol a major part of their businesses, and it means that we have tens of thousands of potential allies coming face-to-face with consumers every day. In some cases, this is our best chance to reach drivers who may never have come within 100 miles of a corn field or have never seen a biorefinery churning out homegrown fuel.

To harness this power, Growth Energy, through the Prime the Pump initiative, has already established partnerships with retail chains in 28 states, where consumers have access to higher blends at the pump and are learning about cleaner, more affordable fueling options. They are hearing about E15 from trusted voices, and when they seek to learn more, we’ve made the information easy to find, easy to read, and easy to share at or via one of its affiliated social media channels. Best of all, the GetEthanol fuel finder makes it simple to find the nearest E15 or E85 station, so that drivers can always take advantage of the high-quality options offered by our retail partners.

Growth Energy plans to build upon these efforts. We will be on the ground, forging new partnerships and continuing to tell our story. And we’ll be online, providing reliable and tailored resources designed to meet the very different needs of consumers, reporters, social influencers, regulators or lawmakers. These tools will ensure that advocates of every stripe—from Midwestern farmers to East Coast moms to university researchers—have the opportunity to get their voices heard in the mediums where today’s consumers are getting their information. Together, we’ll lay a groundwork of consumer education that helps to drive consumer demand for biofuels, like E15, and ensure that our public policy priorities have the vocal support necessary to stand out from the pack

Author: Chris Hogan
Vice President Communications and Public Affairs
Growth Energy