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Lamberty Report: If You Can't Say Something Good
by Ron Lamberty

During his sermon a couple Sundays ago, a visiting priest at our church made one of his points by “calling out” the nuns who run the Catholic schools I attended. Their motto is “in joyous service,” but he asked how they can expect those they teach to serve joyfully when sometimes they don’t appear to be enjoying that service themselves.

Tell ‘em, padre! Maybe a rap on the knuckles with a ruler is in order, don’t you think? But as is the case with most things one hears in church, my moment of joy in seeing the sisters “get theirs” was replaced by wondering how that message applies to me and my work. Curses, cunning genius visiting priest! How dare you send me home from church feeling introspective!

I thought about how we in the ethanol industry have attacked Big Food and Big Oil, chastised EPA for “moon-walking” the E15 decision, challenged environmentalists’ motives, and run ads reminding people that ethanol doesn’t pollute beaches, cause wars, or ship money and jobs overseas. And what do we have to show for it?

Ethanol is getting clobbered in the battle of public opinion – even as we watch 24-hour coverage of the most catastrophic oil spill in the history of the United States. How can that be?

Maybe we aren’t doing a good job of showing them our joy. People are defensive about addictions, and frankly, it isn’t like they don’t know about the Gulf spill, or that we fight wars for oil, or that foreign oil drains our economy, or that it pollutes the air. Ok – oil is bad. We all get that. How can you help us, ethanol? What’s so great about you?

We spend a lot of time and money defending ethanol – dispelling myths, disproving outright lies, and convincing people that ethanol is not bad. But historically, we’ve been most successful when we’ve told people why ethanol is good. Paul Dana convinced people that ethanol is a performance fuel by getting involved in racing. ACE inspired the move to higher blends of ethanol by releasing a study that showed E30 can get the same mileage as unleaded gasoline. Our market development program taught petroleum marketers “ethanol math,” and marketers passed laws to make sure they could use our fuel.

Ethanol can solve a lot of our country’s problems. It is a clean, all-American, high-octane, renewable replacement for oil. Making more of it will create jobs and keep gas prices low. We need to remind ourselves that we like ethanol for what it is – not for what it isn’t. Let’s get back to talking about ethanol’s benefits and how we can help make things better.

We don’t need to make the case against oil – oil does a fine job of that all by itself.

© American Coalition for Ethanol, all rights reserved.
The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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