Growth Energy gathers to discuss oil, ethanol and membership

By Kris Bevill | March 07, 2011

Ethanol industry group Growth Energy kicked off its second annual Executive Leadership Conference in Las Vegas March 3 with a roundtable discussion on increasing oil prices and ethanol’s potential role in alleviating U.S. reliance on foreign oil.

Gen. Wesley Clark, co-chairman of Growth Energy, and Ambassador C. Boyden Gray addressed the impact of recent turmoil in the Middle East on oil prices and warned that increasing demand for oil from growing nations such as China and India will exacerbate the current supply/demand situation. Clark appeared to take a note from his military background, telling attendees that the ethanol industry is at war with its adversaries and calling on each member to fight for what they believe in. “I think we’re going to win this fight,” he said. “I really do.” An audience member questioned Congressional support for ethanol policy, to which Gray responded that he doesn’t believe elected officials currently have a desire to form ethanol policy, but the public supports it and therefore industry members must speak out to convince policymakers to address the topic.

During his State of the Organization speech, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis championed the group’s efforts last year to receive U.S. EPA approval for E15 in 2001 and newer vehicles, but urged members to continue to support efforts to overcome regulatory hurdles associated with E15 implementation, including fuel certification, pump labels and Underwriters Laboratories Inc. approval for existing pump hardware. “It was your vision, it was your persistence, it was your strength that brought the industry the E15 waiver,” he said. “That is no small feat. It has been exhaustive. It has been expensive. But effort equals results.”

Buis addressed the group’s fueling freedom plan, which calls for increasing production of flex-fuel vehicles and expanded blender pump infrastructure, and told members that Growth Energy is working with other industry groups to reach a consensus on a long-term ethanol policy recommendation. He then called for members to actively recruit new additions to the group, stating that the accomplishments achieved so far by Growth Energy have grown the group’s membership by nearly 30 plants and 16 associate companies since last year.

The group currently has 80 ethanol plant members and 50 associate companies.