Opportunities to Tell Our Story

By Mike Bryan | May 21, 2010
Over the past 30 years, there never seems to have been a shortage of issues surrounding ethanol. In the early days of the industry it was automobile performance. Some of the most exaggerated claims you could possibly imagine were leaked to the media in an attempt to deter the progress of ethanol. I remember the 1-800 phone lines that were set up in Minnesota to handle the onslaught of calls from motorists when the state initiated a mandate for ethanol blends. Ralph Groshen from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture said that all hands were standing byno one called. Similarly, California braced for consumer complaints when they established their oxygenated fuels program with ethanol. It was, perhaps, one of the biggest non-events in ethanol's history.

Today it's a whole new series of challengesland use, food vs. fuel, the importation of Brazilian ethanol and the cattle industry blaming ethanol for the price of grain. While the arguments against ethanol are different than they were 10 and 20 years ago, not surprisingly, many of the players remain the same. So, we basically have the same actors, only different scripts.

Some may argue that all of these negative stories are terrible for the industry. Personally, I'm not so sure about that. While we certainly don't need a lot of bad PR, in the long run, the opportunity they provide to tell our side of the story may well be to our advantage. If the food vs. fuel debate, for example, had never been surfaced, the ethanol industry would not have had the opportunity (painful as it may have been) to address the issue and put it to rest. The same is true for many of the technical issues that have been raised over the years. They are opportunities to further solidify the benefits and sustainability of ethanol.

With 30 years of production and market experience, the ethanol industry has assembled some of the best and brightest talent in the renewable energy business. Young people who are ready to pick up the gauntlet for ethanol, working alongside others with many years of experience, together, are capable of tackling the toughest of challenges.

This may be wishful thinking, but it could actually be that at some point in the future, there will be little if anything left for which to attack ethanol. If not, I say to those who continue to try and hammer this industry down, give us your best shot. Come up with more wild and outlandish claims backed by flimsy studies, manipulated data and fuzzy math. It will only serve to make us better, sharper and more focused than ever before. Who knows, if we didn't have these challenges, we just might get a little complacent.

That's the way I see it!