Clark becomes Growth Energy cochairman

By Anna Austin | February 04, 2009
Web exclusive posted Feb. 9, 2009, at 10:43 a.m. CST

Growth Energy, an organization dedicated to promoting clean energy and expanding the use of ethanol in gasoline, announced Feb. 5 that national Democratic leader and four-star retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark has become its cochairman.

Jeff Broin, chief executive officer of ethanol giant Poet LLC and Growth Energy board member, introduced Clark as one of the U.S.'s finest leaders and brightest minds in the advancement of clean, green renewable energy. "This is a great day for America," he said.

Clark, a four-star general, retired after 40 years in the U.S. army. He has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Defense Distinguished Service Metal, Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals, among others.

"It's great to take the lead in Growth Energy and move us into a new time for ethanol," Clark said. "I'm very impressed with what I've seen in the ethanol industry. This is a new industry—an all-American industry. It kicked off during the 1970s, but has made dramatic strides in the improvements and the efficiency of the use of resources and the product."

In 2007, the ethanol industry created 200,000 jobs in the U.S. "What we're doing for national security is profound, because every gallon of ethanol that we put in our fuel system today, is a gallon of imported gasoline that we avoid," he said. "This country is importing 15 billion gallons of gasoline a year, and we don't need to do that."

Clark said the current corn-based ethanol industry is the launching pad for cellulosic ethanol. "That is what's going to revolutionize agriculture and fuel production around the world," he said. "Through corn-based ethanol we've built the infrastructure—the skills, the investment resources, the marketing mechanisms, and the leadership."

The efficiencies of the cellulosic ethanol production process are still being refined, Clark said. "We expect they'll be economical in the 2011-2013 time-frame. And then we'll meet our mandate given to us by Congress in 2007—to produce 36 billion gallons of ethanol per year for the U.S. market."

In his new role, Clark plans to outreach internationally and nationally, and pull together environmental groups to work in collaboration with biotech firms, the biotechnology industry and Wall Street firms. "We've got the ability to pull together the groups that are really necessary to move forward," he said.

Growth Energy was launched in November 2008. "We have aggressively hit back on some of the misleading attacks on clean, green renewable energy and ethanol," said Bruce Rastetter, chief executive officer of Hawkeye Energy Holdings and Growth Energy board member. "But Growth Energy has been busy beyond that. We started by hitting back on Big Food's attack on ethanol, and the misinformation campaign that was occurring at that time. And since that time, we've called on companies to lower food prices, to echo and reflect the decrease in commodity prices"

Rastetter said Growth Energy has gotten no answers as to why food prices in the U.S. have not come down. "We've called on Congress to investigate why that hasn't occurred," he said. "Food prices continue to remain high, irrespective of commodity prices going down dramatically."

Clark said anti-ethanol sentiments are based on a lot of old and outdated information. "Some really specious arguments have been generated about ethanol," he said. "You're darn right we're going to go to each and every one of these organizations through my personal outreach, and through the work of Growth Energy, to clear up these misconceptions. I think it's a real American success story, it strongly deserves the support of the environmental movement in the U.S. and around the world; it's important for the environment, for jobs and for national security. I think it's a great story—and I look forward to helping tell it."