You Make the Call

By Ron Lamberty | October 05, 2012

November 2012 may turn out to be the most consequential month in the history of the ethanol industry. We could have a decision from the U.S. EPA on several requests it has received to waive the renewable fuels standard (RFS). We will have a better handle on the actual size of this year’s drought-ravaged corn harvest. And, as we sort through the results of the 2012 election, we will have a better idea what the political future may hold for the RFS. With all of those important decisions approaching, naturally, like every other fall before this one, my thoughts turn ... to football.

I’m a Packer fan and a football referee, ironically, with the same level of experience as the official who gave the Seahawks a victory over my Packers with what is probably the worst call in the history of the NFL. As a Packer fan, that call was hard to take, but as an official, I saw an upside.

Just about every year, usually after a critical call goes against one of the teams in a very close game, a rabid coach, player or fan informs the nearest official (at the top of his lungs) that he/she has just made “the worst call ever.” In some cases, the penalized party decides the incompetence is not limited to only one official, and brands the entire crew “the worst crew ever.” 

With the Green Bay/ Seattle “Inaccurate Reception” game fresh in their minds, maybe we officials can relax a bit, knowing that coaches, players and fans will now refrain from such outbursts, pausing to think to themselves, “Well, I didn’t like the call, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as that call in Seattle,” right?

Sure they will. Just like everyone simply accepted the EPA’s decision on E15. Just like everyone will dial back the hyperbole about the drought and corn ethanol as soon as the EPA makes its final ruling on waiver requests. Yeah. Right.

Perhaps you also see the contradiction here. Unlike the blown Green Bay/Seattle call—which was truly an awful call—the irony is that those who want to scream about a “bad call” seem to care little whether the call is accurate, instead focusing solely on what it means to them. The decision can be 100 percent correct, and those who don’t want it to be true will simply say it was a bad call.

In the handful of times I have been told I made the “worst call ever,” I was pretty sure I made the right call. EPA took more than two years to test E15 in engines, and they are gathering as much information as they can to “make the right call” on an RFS waiver and yet, regardless of how much data they review and provide as proof for their decision, (and how little scientific proof Big Oil and Big Food provide), if that decision doesn’t get Big Oil and Big Food closer to reducing competition for gas and providing cheap corn for livestock, respectively, they will continue to hammer away at the decisions.

Big Oil and Big Food will assemble a team of PR firms and advertising agencies for a “worst call, ever” campaign, and they will go to the courts and ask for review after review. As we continue to be attacked, we have to remind ourselves that we’re playing by the rules, and that the RFS does a lot of important things. And at some point, after further review, the RFS will stand, and then we can get to the business of dealing with those pesky elected officials.

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