Ethanol industry advocacy group Growth Energy Monday unveiled the first in a series of website, television, newspaper and social media ads aimed at encouraging consumers to learn more about the ethanol industry and the tactics of its primary foe, "big oil."
The multi-million dollar campaign, collectively called "You're No Dummy," will appear nationally on cable news networks such as FOX, CNN, MSNBC and RFD-TV, as well as several local markets.
"It is high time consumers get a reality check from big oil's propaganda designed to protect their market share and enable their monopolistic behavior," said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. "Oil companies are not willing to give up any of their market share and they will do anything to protect their profits – plain and simple.
"It's David versus Goliath. But the biofuels industry will no longer tolerate misleading information and nor should the American public," Buis said. "Our message is simple – you're no dummy. Don't let the oil industry treat you like one."
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Growth Energy Board Co-Chair Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, during the campaign's unveiling, said it is also focused on showing consumers that there is a fuel choice available that will help create American jobs and keep consumers' money in the country.
"Every year at least 300 billion dollars of hard-earned family income (is) sucked out of the country to pay for imported oil," Clark said. "At a time when unrest is escalating across the Middle East from Egypt to Syria, to Lebanon to Vietnam, we should not be sending more American dollars to fund these regimes."
Clark said a key to reducing foreign oil is the Renewable Fuel Standard, which this year mandates production of 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuels.
"Our Renewable Fuel Standard helps reduce American dependence on foreign oil. And using more homegrown fuel like ethanol means less American soldiers risking their lives for dirty and deadly foreign oil."
The group also dismissed the prospect of legislation to eliminate or reduce the RFS, standing by the EPA's authority to monitor the ethanol market.
"It's always hard to predict what happens under that capitol dome, but if you just look at all the legislative items in the queue that they haven't been able to deal with yet – and they are only in for a short number of days in September – it's pretty hard to see them moving forward," Buis said, speculating that this summer's House committee review of the RFS created more awareness about the policy's benefits.
But even though the legislature may not have time to consider alterations the RFS, the EPA earlier this month indicated that it may scale back volume mandates based on the economy's demand for renewable fuels.
Though the EPA didn't offer any hard numbers, Buis said Growth Energy supports the agency's role in the RFS.
"We don't feel (legislative) changes are necessary and here's why – the EPA has the authority to address any changes with RFS. They indicated that they are monitoring this very closely and I don't know why anyone would want legislative changes when the authority already exists," Buis said.
Despite pushback from some legislators, Growth Energy's campaign release coincides with an August request from Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate alleged anti-competitive practices by oil companies.
In a statement regarding the request, Grassley specifically noted ongoing spars between oil and ethanol industries.
"The allegations from retailers about possible anticompetitive practices from Big Oil are disheartening, but not surprising, knowing the lengths Big Oil will go to in order to keep biofuels out of the fuel supply," Grassley said.
The two Senators suggested oil companies may be undermining efforts to distribute renewable fuels, including higher ethanol gasoline blends. The FTC subsequently announced that it will evaluate and investigate the situation.