WINTER 2009 ISSUE


A Common Voice



The country’s leading ethanol producers join forces through Growth Energy to dispel the myth that ethanol is responsible for high food prices.




If you repeat something often enough, the public will believe it, regardless of whether it’s true.


That’s a lesson the ethanol industry learned over the last year or so after a massive campaign led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and others mistakenly and successfully leveled blame for high food prices on ethanol producers. Public opinion was swayed, and ethanol saw continuous criticism in media accounts across the country. But ethanol producers now say they have an equally loud voice on their side.


Growth Energy, a “moral purpose group” formed by some of the leading ethanol producers in the country, announced its presence and launched its own campaign on Nov. 11 aimed at dispelling myths spread by opponents of the fuel.


At the same time, the group has coordinated efforts from a policy front in an effort to secure approval of gasoline-ethanol blends higher than 10 percent.


“We believe that Growth Energy will be a new, fresh, aggressive voice in the energy debate,” Growth Energy Co-founder and POET CEO Jeff Broin said at the Nov. 11 press conference in Washington, D.C.


Partners in the effort include POET, ICM, Western Plains Energy, Amaizing Energy, Hawkeye Renewables and Green Plains Renewable Energy, among others.


Exposing the Myths


National media outlets present at the launch heard Growth Energy members call out the food industry on its contention that ethanol caused the run-up in food prices. While corn prices dropped more than 50 percent after summer highs, food prices continued to climb, with the USDA predicting further increases in the future.


“The lies the Big Food lobby has been spreading about clean, green biofuels have finally been exposed as an intellectually dishonest smear campaign,” Broin says. “It’s wrong and we’re coming together to ask Big Food to give struggling Americans a break.”


“Corn and commodities prices are significantly lower now, so according to GMA’s argument, if biofuels were forcing food prices up previously, the lower cost of corn should have already brought food prices back down,” says Dave Vander Griend, CEO of ICM. “All indicators show that the cost of food will remain high in the months to come, proving Big Food’s argument is fundamentally flawed. Our current low-priced corn, high-priced food economic situation shows that the experts were right: Biofuels production does not lead to increased food costs.”


That day, Growth Energy ran ads in The New York Times, The Hill, Politico and other major publications highlighting the very same points. Those ads can be seen on Growth Energy’s Web site, www.GrowthEnergy.org.


Policy for the Future


The group is also pressing for government approval of blends of more than 10 percent ethanol in the gasoline supply for use by all vehicles.


“In November, Growth Energy launched an ad campaign to educate people about the benefits of higher blends, which include job creation, decreasing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming,” says Jin Chon, Spokesman for Growth Energy.


Chon says approval of higher blends is critical to maintaining the strength of the ethanol industry. In 2009, ethanol will be blended with as much of the available gasoline supply as possible. Without approval of higher blends, producers will not be able to meet production standards set by the Energy Independence Act of 2007.


From the Ground Up


Growth Energy’s focus is broader than just Washington, D.C.


Members of Growth Energy’s public relations team are meeting with farmers, community members, plant managers and others across the country to draw them into the effort. These people see firsthand the impact of ethanol, Chon says.


“Engaging and mobilizing our supporters will be critical to the success of Growth Energy and its efforts to promote the use of clean, green renewable sources of energy like ethanol,” Chon says. “Since our launch a few weeks ago, we’ve heard many grassroots supporters who have asked how they can help, and we expect those numbers to grow as we move forward.”


Growth Energy continues to work for more advocates to join the grassroots effort.


“We’re working to organize employees of member companies and allies like local and state corn growers groups,” Chon says. “We’re also driving people to the GrowthEnergy.org Web site so people can sign up to participate in our activities.”


With both top-down and bottom-up approaches, ethanol industry leaders hope truth will not only undo the damage done by their opponents, but will bring new supporters into the mix to further solidify ethanol’s role as the renewable fuel to power the nation’s future. 





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