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Grassroots Voice: A Coordinated Attack on the E10 Blend Wall
by Brian Jennings

Some time ago, Lisa Richardson, the executive director of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association, called me with an idea to have the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) organize a meeting of U.S. ethanol advocates to find common ground on how to overcome the E10 blend wall. I thought the idea was great and said I would be eager to attend on behalf of ACE members.

So recently representatives from ACE, the Renewable Fuels Association, newly formed Growth Energy, and the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition met with officials from NCGA in an attempt to coordinate efforts on mid-level ethanol blends.

Rick Tolman, CEO of NCGA, and the NCGA leadership team of Bob Dickey, president, Ron Litterer, chairman, and Darrin Ihnen, first vice president, and Lisa not only deserve much praise for taking the initiative to organize the meeting, but NCGA was instrumental in helping all of the groups reach an arrangement representing the common interests of our members.

During the gathering I indicated on behalf of ACE that overcoming the E10 blend wall needs to be the industry’s top priority and that we ought to be creative about how we tackle the challenge. I also said history has proven that when ethanol advocates are divided, we fail to accomplish our policy goals, but that if we can unite on this priority, we could succeed. Finally, I indicated that while ACE preferred an ambitious “number” for what is allowed beyond E10 because we want meaningful market share growth for ethanol, we would support a number that is defended by the science and doable by the politics.

I am pleased to report the meeting was a success. All five groups agreed to a conceptual plan that we aim to execute in a short time frame. For strategic reasons and the fact that the five groups collectively have a lot of critical behind-the-scenes work to accomplish, I am not going to share any details or tactical steps of the plan. But I can say our plan addresses policy and science issues, blend levels, FFVs, infrastructure, interaction with the domestic auto industry, and technical issues. Each group has some key actions to carry out to help make this plan a reality.

I write this column too early to know for sure if we will achieve ultimate success with this plan, but I can say that in developing it we have already accomplished an unprecedented level of coordination. I want to thank each group for what was a productive meeting. If we are able to remain united, I am optimistic about our chances. It was the right way to end 2008 and to begin 2009.

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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industry�s hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanol�s carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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