M-m-m-my Corona: Staying Positive After Testing Positive

With many ethanol plants slowed or shut down this spring, the American Coalition for Ethanol's senior vice president watched on, while recovering at home, as our industry pitched in to help the nation stay healthy. Deeds, not words, set us apart.
By Ron Lamberty | July 13, 2020


“Ooh, my little pretty one, my pretty one, when you gonna give me some time, Corona?” With apologies to The Knack, the coronavirus gave me some of its time starting with a positive COVID-19 test the last day of March and officially ending the first of May. The time in between included a couple days of struggling to breathe, then struggling to remain calm so it wouldn’t get worse, and a week of sleeping 18 to 20 hours but not feeling rested because my lungs weren’t getting oxygen out of the air they brought in. Massive quantities of antibiotics and a couple more weeks of sleeping more than I was awake eventually got me back to feeling close to normal.

One thing was certain during my uncertain times. Every time I woke, ads with slow piano background music and pictures of empty buildings and empty streets told me about another company, founded many years ago, that has always cared about people. Caring about people like me was their main business, I think. And right now, today, more than ever, during these uncertain, difficult, unprecedented times, those companies want me to stay safe. They wanted me to know about social distancing and staying home, that they’re here to help and I can count on them. Especially if I need to buy some of their stuff, which they’re still selling (to help everyone), and will ship to my house without anyone ever touching it. They said we’ll all get through this, together. And they meant it—because the piano music got faster, and the picture was a sunrise and a tree with buds on the branches.

Meanwhile, the Power by People people of the ethanol industry were out doing good, like we knew they would. With plants slowed or shut down, and without multimillion-dollar ad budgets to tell people they care and want them to be safe and healthy, ethanol people were instead doing the actual work of caring for others and helping them be safer and healthy–even battling the federal government to be allowed to help people stay safe and healthy by providing ethanol (sometimes free of charge) for surface disinfectant and hand sanitizer. Deeds, not words.

It’s no surprise, coming from an industry helping keep pump prices low for decades, while loud oil industry mouthpieces lie to consumers and politicians, accusing ethanol of doing the opposite. Oil companies, Astroturf enviros, and even the current U.S. EPA cast doubt on ethanol’s environmental benefits with misinformation campaigns and intentionally false “studies” and calculations, yet ethanol continues to provide the lion’s share (most of the other animals’ shares, too) of pollution reduction and greenhouse gas reduction in transportation. And speaking of animals, ethanol plant slowdowns and shutdowns caused concern among livestock producers who rely on feed produced by those plants, shredding the tired “food vs. fuel” meme, proving ethanol plants don’t use corn’s “food,” they improve it and return it to the food supply as high-quality feed.

My original plan for this column was to explain how USDA’s Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program rollout would be challenging because of c-store market conditions, and while true, it just sounded whiny. Ethanol producers have been hit harder than most industries, with devastating COVID-19 volume losses exacerbated by historically low oil prices from Russia and Saudi Arabia’s tough guy contest, and being largely ignored by federal assistance programs—while oil gets theirs. I don’t get it. No one’s making hand sanitizer with gasoline. These uncertain times prove ethanol plants make delicious animal feed and healthy, economical fuel. Play the fast piano music and let’s put that HBIIP money to work!

Ron Lamberty
Senior Vice President
American Coalition for Ethanol