Growth Energy CEO: Ethanol industry should share its good news

By Ann Bailey | June 21, 2016

It’s up to everyone in the ethanol industry to herald the many environmental, social and health benefits of the product they produce, said Emily Skor, Growth Energy’s new CEO.

Every single day ethanol is decreasing greenhouse gases, reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and making the planet a healthier place to live, Skor said, and the people who work for the industry—and their families and friends—need to tell people that.

Skor gave the keynote address June 21 at the 32nd annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The FEW is produced by Ethanol Producer Magazine.

“Americans are hungry for good news and no industry is better to deliver it,” Skor told FEW participants. “I’ve worked in a lot of industries over the years. The one thing this industry has is no Achilles heel. The message you can expect to hear from me is positive.

“Growth Energy is ready to move America forward. The task now is to build our influence beyond the Corn Belt and beyond the Beltway,” Skor said. Members of the ethanol industry must move beyond controlling the story by responding to attacks on ethanol, to being proactive and personally telling consumers about the positive impacts of ethanol has on their lives, Skor said.

“We need to move beyond intellectual arguments,” she continued. Skor also said she plans to use every tool possible, including social media such as Twitter, to get the word out about the benefits of using ethanol.

“We don’t simply go online. We live online,” she said, noting that means that the ethanol industry can harness the digital era to show consumers the positive impacts of ethanol. But the ethanol industry should take a break from using the same old rhetoric, she suggested.

 “We can’t win by telling Americans what they already know,” she said. Instead, each person involved in the ethanol industry needs to share his or her personal testimony with their neighbors, families and friends.

“No television ad will compete against the conversation of one caring mother to another,” Skor said.

It’s important that industry members engage reasonable Americans and not be afraid to speak out on ethanol’s environmental benefits, said Brian Jennings, American Coalition for Ethanol executive vice president. Jennings was part of an FEW panel called “Pathways to Fully Realizing the Bold Promise of the Biofuel Industry.”

“Don’t be afraid to call yourself an environmentalist,” Jennings told the panel attendees. He also encouraged ethanol producers to tell their stories. “A lot of you are doing really creative things… Seek out leaders and have conversations,” he said.

Conversations with friends on the east and west coasts indicate that they have a lot of concern about air quality issues, said Dave VanderGriend, CEO of ICM Inc., during the FEW panel titled “Exploring Strategies to Unlock Greater Marketplace Access for Conventional and Advanced Biofuels.”

The cleaner air that results from using ethanol is an important benefit that should be shared, he said. “Agriculture has come to the defense of this country many times and this is a chance for the agriculture industry to shine,” VanderGriend said.