Thanks to Minnesota's 3 Amigos

By Mike Bryan | May 11, 2012

It seems incredible that this is the 28th International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, and what a fitting place to have it. Minnesota was a key state in passing legislation to mandate the use of ethanol statewide, a leader in education and promotion and it boasted some of the most important pioneers in the industry. Larry Johnson, Kathy Bryan, Ralph Groshen—the Three Minnesota Amigos, who helped carve a path to the future of this industry.

Larry Johnson, The Ethanol Answer Man, did more to educate Minnesotans and folks in other states than perhaps anyone. He drove the Ethanol Answer Van covering thousands of miles speaking at farmer meetings and any event he could to spread the ethanol story. Larry has a wealth of knowledge and is still consulting in the ethanol industry and probably will continue to do so, even if someday it means using an ethanol powered walker.

Kathy Bryan helped build the very first Fuel Ethanol Workshop. She was a leader not only in Minnesota but nationally. She walked the halls of the Minnesota State Legislature with Ralph and Larry, lobbying legislators on ethanol. On the national scene, she made many trips to Washington, D.C., often teaming up with farmers from around the country to lobby Congress. She was the co-founder of BBI International. Kathy passed away in 2009 and is deeply missed.

Ralph Groshen, well, we simply can’t say enough about Ralph. He was instrumental in convincing the Minnesota state legislature to mandate the use of ethanol. Ralph was one who simply never accepted that something could not be done for ethanol. What he accomplished while at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for the advancement of ethanol, is difficult to put into words. Ralph retired last year, finally hanging up his ethanol spurs. One of his claim-to-fame moments was the writing of the song, “It’s a Grand Old Fuel.” He does sing it on special request, with payment for his singing usually made in beer.

It was a time in the history of the industry where we had to take the gloves off and fight fire with fire. Promotions at self-serve gas stations, where farmers filled up the tanks of customers and gave them a nickel for every gallon of ethanol-blended fuel they put in the tank along with a brochure on ethanol. Thousands of business cards in florescent orange were handed out to stations that had “no ethanol in our gas” signs, saying “Shame on you…for not selling ethanol.” Green cards were given to stations selling ethanol that said “Thanks for selling ethanol blends.” I know, it sounds corny, but it worked against the oil industry which was hell-bent on destroying ethanol.

So, coming back to Minnesota this year holds a special place in the hearts of many. Most of those in the Minnesota ethanol industry, and even more on the national level, either personally know, or know of, the Three Amigos. They are just three Minnesotan pioneers, among many pioneers in the industry for whom we are forever grateful.

So, welcome to Minnesota and the 28th Fuel Ethanol Workshop, a state and a workshop that helped pioneer ethanol in America.

That’s the way I see it.

Author: Mike Bryan
Chairman, BBI International
mbryan@bbiinternational.com