FEW: Ethanol industry must ‘take back the message' about ethanol

By Ryan C. Christiansen | June 03, 2009
Report posted June 16, 2009, at 1:20 p.m. CST

Noting that major media outlets have dubbed the U.S. ethanol industry a "sham" and a "hoax", BBI International CEO Mike Bryan called for the industry to "take back the message" about ethanol's benefits to the nation. Bryan spoke to more than 2,200 attendees during the general session of the 25th annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo, a BBI event, at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver today.

The FEW is a globally recognized event that has helped to facilitate the ethanol industry's evolution by providing programming that includes technical workshops and networking forums alongside the largest, most widely attended expo in the business. FEW presentations include a strong focus on commercial-scale ethanol production, new technology, and near-term research and development.

Opening the general session, Bryan asked, "Why has ethanol gone from a boom to a bust in the eyes of many?" and then answered, "I believe the economy was only a bit player in the woes of the ethanol industry over the past year: we lost control of the message. Someone worked to create an image that is false: (that ethanol is a major cause for increased food prices and for deforestation in other countries). That's the real scam. I'm not a conspiracy theorist; I'm a realist. We need to come together as one industry and take back the message."

Bryan was followed at the podium by Gen. Wesley Clark, co-chairman for Growth Energy, an ethanol industry group made up of producers and other supportive organizations. Clark echoed Bryan's sentiment. "America must sit up and take notice of our ethanol industry," he said. "This is not really just about business; it's about national security."

Clark noted how while still a student at West Point, he wrote a report about how some day the U.S. would need to send troops to the Middle East because of the nation's dependency on Middle East oil. "Is there any doubt what [the war in Iraq] is related to?" he asked. "It's about America's need for imported oil. Ethanol is America's domestic growth fuel and we need it for our country's security."

Without directly implicating the oil industry as the driving force behind changing the public's perception about ethanol, Clark said, "When you're producing 10 billion gallons per year of ethanol, somebody's not selling something else."

Calling the troops to battle, Clark echoed the Carl Sandburg poem "Chicago", saying "We're going to be Stormy, husky, and brawling" in taking back the message about the benefits of ethanol.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO for the Renewable Fuels Association, echoed both Bryan and Clark. "Well-funded, well-organized interests from the petroleum, food-processing, and factory-farming industries are stepping up the paid propaganda campaign against U.S. ethanol," he said. "They are working overtime to persuade public policymakers, opinion leaders, and the general public that ethanol is responsible for all the ills of the world," from rising food process to deforestation. Dinneen also noted how for petroleum, "[using ethanol is] the only way gasoline refiners can lower the carbon footprint of their product today."

Looking forward, Dinneen was positive in his message: "In the U.S. ethanol industry, when we face great challenges, we do great things."