The ethanol industry will no longer be bashing big oil over the head with a baseball bat, according to Geoff Cooper, Renewable Fuels Association senior vice president. "That is not going to work with this administration," he told a group of Missouri corn growers gathering in St. Peters for a district meeting. "We are strategically thinking about our message as an industry," he says. "It is time to temper some of that rhetoric."
The good news is the ethanol industry is somewhat of a switch-hitter. It can craft a message to connect with a president who throws from the left side or the right side of the political mound.
Talking points like green energy, carbon benefits and "bad big oil," which once piqued the ears of former President Barack Obama's administration and Democrats in Congress, will not resonate with President Donald Trump's administration or a Republican Congress, Cooper explains. "They do not care about greenhouse gases," he says.
So, they will switch their stance to connect with those on the right side. Cooper notes that Republicans gravitate toward consumer choice and deregulation. But above all, he says, Trump favors "American energy and jobs."
He has a game plan that involves farmers talking with Congress and the Trump Cabinet, driving home four key points.
1. Push the homegrown hot button. Cooper says when farmers are talking with their members of Congress, they should remind them that ethanol is a low-cost, domestically grown energy source. The Trump administration continues to look at opportunities to promote its "Made in the USA" image. Ethanol fits that bill, coming straight from farmers' fields. It is literally grown at a farmer's home.
2. Votes matter. "We need to remind Trump and the new Cabinet how he got elected," Cooper says. He points out in the swing states, 184 counties are home to 205 ethanol plants. Of those counties with ethanol plants, 175, or 95%, of them voted for Trump. These 175 counties were responsible for 93% of the total ethanol production in 2015."It wasn't coal miners in West Virginia, not factory workers in Ohio, or oil and gas in Texas," he adds. "It was people in agriculture in those battleground states that helped him get into office."
3. Remain steadfast on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). "We have to hold Trump's feet to the fire on RFS support," he says. "Any chance you get, any means you work with anyone remotely connected with the administration, you need to stress the importance of the RFS."
4. Support growth. The corn industry continues to become more efficient and produce more bushels on fewer acres. Cooper says the Trump administration needs to support ethanol export markets.
By switching up its message, Cooper and the ethanol industry look to continue to remain a force in the fuel game.