Celebrating Success, Finding Smartest Path Forward

Growth Energy's annual leadership conference inspires and energizes, writes the organization's CEO in her March Drive column for Ethanol Producer Magazine.
By Emily Skor | February 16, 2017

Growth Energy recently held its eighth annual Executive Leadership Conference in Miami. The conference is our forum for taking stock of where we are as an industry, where we need to go together, and how to get there. More than anything, it is an opportunity to unite as we celebrate our successes, diagnose our challenges and coalesce around the smartest path forward.

In Miami, we convened an impressive group of industry experts who addressed diverse and important topics. We discussed how Growth Energy is facilitating E15 expansion and branding to sell more gallons of ethanol. We prioritized regulatory and legislative issues so industry has a clear sense of where we should focus our energy and resources for the greatest impact. And, we discussed advances in foreign market development and explored progress in engaging domestic consumers more thoughtfully and substantively.

While together, we recognized the industry’s greatest victory this past year, which was in regard to the renewable fuel standard (RFS). For the first time in years, the U.S. EPA restored renewable volume obligations for conventional biofuel to the statutory level—15 billion gallons for 2017. Not since the RFS was expanded in 2007 have we won a more profound and clear-cut victory for our industry’s most important policy. As President Trump’s administration takes hold and the Republican majority in Congress establishes its priorities, we must be vigilant in making sure we don’t give any ground on the RFS, because it isn’t just a highly effective energy policy, it is a hugely impactful agricultural policy.

In 2016, we broke barriers and achieved key milestones. Consumers drove more than 500 million miles on E15, and NASCAR drivers, racing under the most stressful driving conditions, surpassed 10 million miles on Sunoco Green E15. We doubled—to 28—the number of states where E15 is sold. As a result, the fuel is available at more than 600 gas stations. Prime the Pump’s initiative to help retailers pay for the blender pumps required to sell all ethanol blends from E15 to E85 continues to provide an immediate return on investment and we thank all those who support the effort. 

We also explored the significance and implications of our new political landscape. Trump was a vocal supporter of ethanol and the RFS on the campaign trail, and polling results show that an overwhelming majority of Midwestern voters in critical swing states who helped put him in office, over 80 percent, agreed with the president’s position. We must make sure that the cabinet officials and their political staffs understand what it means to “support a strong RFS” from a policy-making perspective. In addition, we remain absolutely committed to securing a legislative fix for Reid vapor pressure (RVP). Given our success in expanding access to E15, it is paramount that retailers are not prevented from selling it year-round due to an arcane EPA rule. This is a message that should resonate beautifully with the reform-oriented incoming administration.

To supplement our work in reaching policymakers, we also discussed how to engage consumers. We know through market research that when moms realize higher blends reduce the use of toxic additives, they will seek out this fuel. We know that when millennials know ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions they give it a second thought. These are our future customers. And Growth Energy is committed to meeting them in their preferred communications space with a message we know will resonate with their core values and beliefs.  We are giving our members tools to share their stories with friends and neighbors, local press and social media communities. By empowering members and combining consumer outreach with advocacy, we ensure that our message becomes a call to action.

It was an honor to be a part of such an energizing and inspiring event and I appreciate people taking the time to join us. The sharing of ideas among attendees and the obvious dedication to the industry exhibited by everyone in Miami left all of us at Growth Energy excited for what’s in store. Our industry’s strength comes from the people who live and breathe biofuels every day, and an event like the leadership conference certainly reinforces that notion.

Author: Emily Skor
CEO, Growth Energy