Deploying Plan B

FROM THE APRIL ISSUE: Editor Lisa Gibson previews the magazine, including feature articles about an innovative approach to plant cleaning, industry reaction to a high-octane proposal, and a new education effort aimed at mechanics, and more.
By Lisa Gibson | March 20, 2019

When the deadline came around for this April issue, two of our planned features clearly weren’t  going to pan out. The “news” wasn’t newsy, the details didn’t align, the sources didn’t have the information we were looking for. Two ideas, trashed.

Thankfully, EPM’s editorial staff was busy traveling in the weeks before that dreaded deadline, and we plugged in two new ideas born of those trips, just under the wire. Associate Editor Matt Thompson caught the National Ethanol Conference in February, and was shocked—like many other attendees—to hear a General Motors executive tell the ethanol industry it’s not active enough in pushing for a RON standard. Dan Nicholson pitched a 95 RON, down from the 100 and 98 RON standards GM has advocated for in the recent past. He also told his audience that “waiting and hoping” for the best in regulatory reform isn’t good enough, and the ethanol lobby needs to “step up.” He did bring up some valid points about unrealistic efforts, expressed thanks for the opportunity to speak, encouraged teamwork and a collaborative path forward, illustrated the urgency of a high-octane standard, and even said he stands with the ethanol industry in our fight to remove blend barriers. But he also said the ethanol industry needs to “shift from not engaging” in the RON discussion. 

Thompson captured some reactions, including from Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, who rebuked Nicholson’s assertion—on stage, immediately after the presentation—that ethanol is simply sitting back and waiting for a RON standard to fall. Doug Sombke, of South Dakota Farmers Union, wrote GM a letter that makes clear his response to Nicholson’s claims. Other attendees challenged Nicholson in the Q&A that followed his speech. The story starts on page 22.

Our other replacement feature idea came from Growth Energy’s Executive Leadership Conference, also in February. One panel discussion on the last day detailed an initiative by American Ethanol to help educate mechanics about the benefits of ethanol, and clear up the myths. Specifically, the panel explored the idea of taking our message to technical schools training the next generation of mechanics, and filling the fuel hole in the curriculum. American Ethanol is doing that, with the help of its partners, and is looking to expand its reach. Find out more, starting on page 30.

Our cover story this month worked out exactly as planned. It’s a peek inside Badger State Ethanol and its work with Ecolab to revolutionize plant cleaning. With less caustic soda and hydroblasing, Badger State still shines. It’s on page 16.

Story ideas fall through. It happens sometimes. This month, adjusting was simple and I think we’ve delivered better content than we originally planned. Fallbacks for the win.

Author: Lisa Gibson