Growth Energy conference examines E15, NASCAR partnership

By Holly Jessen | March 14, 2012

More than 465 people attended Growth Energy’s members-only Executive Leadership Conference held March 8 -11 in Las Vegas. The third annual event had the theme “Fueling A New Frontier,” in recognition of ongoing work to open the marketplace for E15. “Getting E15 into the market is the single most critical step we can take for this industry,” said CEO Tom Buis. “And we will not back down until we succeed.”

During Buis’ “State of the Organization” speech he pointed out that it was Growth Energy that filed the petition with the U.S. EPA three years ago, seeking the E15 waiver. The group did that because of its membership, which had identified the blend wall as a concern. “Less than one month ago, on Feb. 17th, we finally got approval to register the fuel,” he said. “That only happened because of you – the members of Growth Energy. You understood the importance of tearing down the blend wall. You didn’t sit on your hands and hoped it would be addressed. You took action and while there were many hurdles to overcome, you didn’t back down.”

The industry is now “at the cusp of a new market frontier with E15,” said Growth Energy President Jim Nussle. Although others wanted to “celebrate the status quo,” Growth Energy members pushed forward to the future with E15. “We all remember how long it took for E10 to saturate the market. But we have a plan and we have each other and those are some good reasons to be optimistic,” he said. “This isn’t going to be easy, but nothing worthwhile probably is.”

American Ethanol’s partnership with NASCAR was also a strong feature of the event. Speaker Steve Phelps, vice president of marketing for NASCAR, gave attendees more information about how the sport is getting the message out through broadcasting and other media. “We’ve created an unbelievable partnership,” he said. “I think it’s one of the best partnerships in all of sports.”

Growth Energy hosted its members at two NASCAR events at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway over the weekend. First, on March 17, members had a chance to see NASCAR’s Nationwide Series Sam’s Town 300. Austin Dillon, of Richard Childress Racing, drove the No. 3 American Ethanol Chevy in that event. On March 20 members had the change to take in the Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 and a reception at the Blackjack Club in the center of the race track.

In addition, Childress was appointed as a new member of the Growth Energy Board of Directors during the leadership conference. The two other new members include Bob Casper of Ethanol Products LLC and Abe Hughes of New Holland.