Ethanol — The New Consumer Hype?

By David L. Brown

I am in receipt of an exciting piece of news from the folks who are promoting Ethanol for the purpose of turning perfectly good food — for which there is a rising, legitimate and desperate demand in the world — into fake second-rate gasoline thanks to government subsidies. Note that I am trying to be completely fair and balanced in my reporting here. Well, not trying too hard I admit. WARNING: There may be sarcasm, irony and even (yes I know it’s not PC but then neither am I) ridicule involved in my comments below, for which I take full credit.

But first, here is today’s news release in its entirety:

EPIC Hires New Executive Director

Omaha, Neb. (March 4, 2008 – AgNewsWire) – The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) has a new executive director. She is Toni Nuernberg, who comes to EPIC from ACA International in Minneapolis where she worked for 29 years, the last 12 as Chief Operating Officer of ACA International Holding Company Inc. and its for-profit subsidiaries.

Nuernberg says when she decided to make a career move she was looking for an exciting new industry with lots of potential.

“Clearly the ethanol industry is that and so much more,” she says. “The thing that struck me about it was that every person that I talked with about this position from the CEOs of the member organizations to the staff was their passion and the excitement that they feel about this industry.”

Nuernberg is impressed with the progress EPIC has made in just three short years of existence.

“I think it’s pretty amazing. That’s one of the things that intrigued me,” said Nuernberg. “They’ve put the necessary resources into making it as successful as it’s been in just three years so I am sure that it is going to continue and become even a larger player in the industry.”

Tom Branhan, EPIC Board President and CEO and President of Glacial Lakes Energy, is pleased they were able to hire such a qualified and competent leader for the organization.

“On behalf of the EPIC board and staff we are excited to have Toni as the new executive director,” Branhan said. “Toni is joining a very strong team and will be taking EPIC to new heights as the industry rapidly advances.”

Nuernberg’s first goal is to develop a strategic plan.

“There are three things that we have to do. We have to assess where we are currently, we need to determine what we want to do moving forward and then we need to put the plan together to move forward and that has to happen through strategic planning,” she says.

She encourages ethanol stakeholders who have not yet joined EPIC to do so.

“The message of ethanol and getting the community at large to be thinking about ethanol, going to the pump and requesting it and using it – that’s going to take a unified effort of the industry and they need to participate in that and become members.”

Nuernberg has a degree in accounting, organizational behavior and communications. She is also an active member of the American Society of Association Executives and served for five years on the board of directors and executive committee of the Midwest Society of Association Executives.

Gee, what exciting news this is. I particularly love Ms. Nuernberg’s proposed program involving those important three things they need to do (find out where they are; find out where they want to go; put together a “strategic” plan to get there). Most people would not be able to conceive of such a brilliant and insightful program of action…. The victory-at-all-costs spirit just leaps forth from her daring proposal, bringing to mind the bold actions of Gen. George S. Patton or perhaps even Julius Caesar (inventor of the eponymous salad).

Obviously the plan is to market this stuff as if it were cigarettes, beer or laundry detergent. How long before we will see celebrity spokespersons asking “Got Ethanol?” Hayseed-type characters telling us “I’m not a farmer but I play one on television”? Or, a picture of a giant SUV with the slogan “Just Do It!”? Yeah, like there isn’t already enough cow flop in the airwaves, print media and Internet.

I particularly like the image invoked by the phrase “going to the pump and asking for it….” Hmm, what will the pump say? Will it say anything? Will people in white coats and bearing large nets and strait jackets be involved? Probably not, but only because there are too few of them to go around and they have plenty to do as it is. Talking to gas pumps is probably a pretty harmless activity compared to some of the other stuff that is going on in the world. For example, take the political campaign … please!

Anyway, I just wanted to share this wonderful news with you, knowing that my readers would appreciate the mindless, ironic stupidity of the whole thing.

And, oh yes, here’s a suggested marketing theme for these Ethanol! snakeoil salesmen:

“Taking Food From Babes … to Put In Your Gas Tank.”

That pretty much says it all. But, er, well it doesn’t really make me want to drive down to the service station for a heart-to-heart conversation with “the pump”. In fact, I think I’m about to get an Excedrin Headache Number 4 … have a strange urge to eat a family-size box of Twinkies … and just gotta trade in my out-of-date Mac on that shiny new one with quad-thingies and gigapalooza memory cache. Consumerism — It’s Got Da Power! Yeah!

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