GTN Original: Biofuels Advocacy is a 24/7 Job

I recently received a call from an ethanol plant board member that reminded me just how important—and nonstop—advocacy is.

On a weekend trip to a local car dealership to have his vehicle serviced, an ethanol plant board member sat in the lobby waiting for the routine check-up on his car to be completed. As he patiently skimmed through magazines, he overheard the dealership’s Service Manager speaking with a new car owner.

The woman of a new Honda model asked the Service Manager what fuel she should be using. The Service Manager promptly responded, stating that the woman should avoid using gasoline blended with ethanol because it’s “hard on the engine” and it “severely reduces mileage.” He then proceeded to explain that it may cost a little more for her to buy “no ethanol gas,” but it will be worth it in the long-run.

Many vehicle owners, with good reason, turn to the employees of car dealerships for advice and expertise on their vehicles. While we trust these service men and women to do routine maintenance and keep our vehicles in good driving condition, vehicle owners should know that the foremost experts on their cars are the folks who manufactured the vehicle. If the woman had simply looked in the fuel recommendation section of her owner’s manual, she’d see that Honda recommends the use of up to 10% ethanol (E10) in vehicles 2013 and older, and up to 15% ethanol (E15) in most of its model year 2014 vehicles and newer.

The ethanol plant board member did what most of us would do in this industry, he collected himself, then calmly and politely approached the Service Manager to ask about his recommendation. “I asked him if he knew what he just did. I asked him if he knew that Honda is a supporter of E10, and E15 in its newer vehicles. I asked him if he realized the benefits ethanol provides, to our vehicles, the environment and our economy,” the board member told me on the phone. “He got pretty red in the face.”

The board member went on to tell me that the employee explained he was simply repeating lines he had heard others spout off, and that he’s never really looked into the benefits of ethanol and renewable fuels. He was able to leave the service employee with his card, and gave him a few sources of information to look in to.

This simple exchange should remind us all, not just of the path ahead in terms of dispelling the vast amount of misinformation out there on biofuels, but also that renewable fuels advocacy is a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year job. Every trip to a car dealer, gas station, grocery store, or church may put you on the frontline in the battle to defeat Big Oil’s big lies about renewable fuels.

As former-Sen. Byron Dorgan put it at the most recent Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit: “Getting a 16-pound mallet and hitting cement, it’s awful. Because, what happens when you hit that cement driveway? You see no visible impact—at all—of what you’ve just done. And you do it once, twice, ten times, fifteen times, twenty times—but guess what? Every time you hit it, you’re fracturing what you don’t see underneath. Then, all of a sudden, on the twenty-fifth hit with that mallet, the whole damn thing just comes apart.”

That’s the way we have to go about advocacy, and I commend all of you who do it day in and day out. Know that little by little, we are making a difference.

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