Beware of Dog

By Ron Lamberty | April 11, 2012

They say the reason a little dog doesn’t back down from a big dog in a fight is that dogs don’t have mirrors. The little dog knows he’s looking at another dog, and in his mind, he’s just like that dog. For the same reason, a German shepherd will recoil at the site of a Shih Tzu. The big dog doesn’t know he’s the big dog.

Sometimes, it’s good to not know that you’re not the big dog; sometimes it helps to take a look in the mirror.

Each spring, the American Coalition for Ethanol invites our members to gather in Washington, D.C., for a couple of days on Capitol Hill, talking to elected officials about the importance of ethanol to our nation’s fuel supply. In preparation for this year’s event, we held up a mirror to our industry, convincing our members to size themselves up and recognize the scale of ethanol and beneficial impact it has on our country.

We work in an industry where the big dog looks at himself in the mirror all day, every day—in that kind of mirror that makes things appear larger, and taller and with bigger shoulders. That view is also the one they use in their advertising and “studies,” and it’s the one they bring to Capitol Hill when they tell Congress that if they just continue to let the Big Dog eat, Big Oil will protect us from everything. Well, everything but high gas prices, pollution, high consumer costs from expensive transportation . . .

But I digress. What ACE saw in the mirror when we looked at the ethanol industry was that, although we’re not THE Big Dog, we are A Big Dog. Consider these examples:

The Bakken Oil field is a big deal right now—lots of jobs, lots of oil.  If you took all of that oil and made it into gasoline, and then added U.S. ethanol to it, you’d have E85. In other words, U.S ethanol plants provide four times the auto fuel that the Bakken field can produce right now. At its expected peak, gasoline from Bakken oil will be less than half ethanol’s volume right now.

Keystone XL pipeline and the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve are also projects put forward as solutions to our nation’s energy and employment woes. Those will each carry—at their expected peak—700,000 barrels of oil a day. That’s very good. That would make 5 billion gallons of gasoline each. Those two, combined with another project the same size, would be about as big as ethanol (assuming no growth in ethanol the 10 years it would take those projects to get to full speed).

We took those facts to the hill, and shared them with friend and foe alike, and told them that they were absolutely right when they passed the renewable fuels standard—and that they should continue to support it. We mentioned that ethanol is a buck cheaper than gas right now, and that E15 would be about 15 cents less than unleaded gasoline, if everyone who was holding it up would let this medium-sized dog out of its kennel. Most importantly, we reminded them that we are doing all of it without subsidies. We don’t eat like the Big Dog eats. The object in your rear view mirror is about as big as it looks. Woof, woof.

Author: Ron Lamberty
Senior Vice President,
American Coalition for Ethanol
(605) 334-3381