Ethanol’s ‘Power By People’

A new grassroots campaign will tell the positive story of ethanol through people's personal stories, writes Brian Jennings. "Power by People" will appeal to the hearts and minds of the public.
By Brian Jennings | June 09, 2014

The American Coalition for Ethanol recently launched a new campaign built upon the personal stories, authenticity and persuasiveness of our members and other people in the business of ethanol. Our campaign, "Power by People", compliments the industry-wide effort, through Fuels America, to defend the renewable fuel standard and higher blends by going on offense and being positive about the human good ethanol delivers.

It will feature a more engaging experience at, social media friendly videos and infographics that are easily sharable, and some paid advertising. 

We’re doing this to turn the tables on opponents who are trying to scare people by saying things like E15 will ruin your engine, the RFS drives up food prices and high RIN prices mean high pump prices.  Opponents are also playing to people’s emotions by stereotyping the RFS as a heavy-handed U.S. EPA mandate.

While ethanol opponents are appealing to peoples’ fears, we’ve been fighting fear with facts.  A common refrain within our industry is, the facts are on our side, we just need to get the facts out there.  We just need to tell our story.

ACE has concluded that we can’t keep pouring all our trust, hard work and money into publicizing just the facts—reams of studies, detailed spreadsheet and bullet points supported by footnotes—in response to attacks with the hope that we’ll win over more political and public support for ethanol.
In other words, we can’t keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them and hope for a better result.

For most people, desire doesn’t come from data.  We need to have the sophistication to appreciate that emotions are part of every decision people make.  There’s an old adage about winning the hearts and minds, a recognition that facts alone do little to captivate people’s attention and that we need to strike a smarter balance between data and emotion.

ACE believes ethanol is first and foremost about people. A profile in courage about ordinary people who joined forces, without any template or precedent to guide them, to commit their own money and time to rescue their families, neighbors and communities by building locally owned businesses in their towns. Jobs were created and profits stayed at home. 

For far too long, the people of ethanol—and their stories—have been overlooked. 

Surveys confirm that people are most likely to be convinced by other people with whom they can relate.  If we tap into the sincerity and authenticity of the grassroots—why they make ethanol, why they care about ethanol and why ethanol is good no matter who you are or where you are from—we can capitalize on that emotional and human domain to show and tell the stories behind the facts.  So ACE is challenging the status quo by trying to connect with people on a deeper level, an emotional level. 

This is not to say we should abandon the facts. The facts are absolutely on ethanol’s side, and we absolutely need to get the facts out there. But we’re going to try to deliver those facts in a more interesting wrapper, to make rational arguments about ethanol by appealing to people’s hearts and minds.

ACE is uniquely positioned to do this because we are the grassroots voice of ethanol.  ACE members represent the heart and soul, the sharpest minds of the industry and come from various walks of life. They have experiences that can help us convey that ethanol shouldn’t merely be valued by the barrels of foreign oil and the tons of greenhouse gas emissions it displaces, it should also be measured based on the human good it delivers.

And we don’t have to be dishonest or scare people. Because when the people of ethanol are showing and telling our story, it is a positive story.  Ethanol has power by people.
Author: Brian Jennings
Executive Vice President
American Coalition for Ethanol
[email protected]