The War Is Impacting Us All
by Sean Cota, National Energy & Fuels Institute
During these most difficult times, NEFI is here to help
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is affecting your costs, your business, and your customers. The latest price spikes are a real threat to our industry.
You are not alone. Please know that NEFI is here to help in any way we can. In addition to monitoring the situation closely and responding directly to member concerns, we have been working with our volunteer leadership and government affairs team to coordinate an official response at the federal level.
What is happening?
Oil markets have climbed to 14-year highs, putting extraordinary pressure on our Main Street businesses and already struggling American families. High energy prices have been driven even higher by global events beyond our control. Current U.S. energy policies have only made matters worse.
As the conflict in Europe escalates, the U.S. and its allies are imposing additional sanctions against Russia. This now includes a ban on Russian energy imports into the U.S. Prior to the conflict, the U.S. imported an average of 209,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) of crude oil and 500,000 bpd of other petroleum products from Russia. Removing these products from our energy supply may cause additional market instability, especially if our allies follow suit. Without question, the ongoing crisis demands an immediate and decisive response from policymakers in Washington.
What is NEFI doing about it?
The NEFI Executive Committee held an emergency session on the morning of Friday,
March 4, 2022. On Monday, March 7, NEFI delivered a letter to the White House offering specific recommendations to provide immediate relief for your business and your customers.
Our recommended actions included:
- Leveraging the Defense Production Act to boost domestic conventional and advanced biofuel production;
- Waiving the Jones Act to allow easier transport of crude oil, refined products, biofuels and propane between U.S. ports;
- Fully utilizing the Renewable Fuel Standard to ramp up production of biodiesel and other advanced biofuels; and
- Waiving summer gasoline RVP requirements to lower costs and increase supply of refined petroleum products.
Additionally, we urged Congress to enact bipartisan legislation to:
- Strengthen home energy efficiency tax incentives;
- Provide long-term extensions for soon-to-expire renewable fuel and alternative fuel tax incentives; and
- Increase funding of cost-sharing grants for biofuel infrastructure.
You may have already received calls to action from NEFI on several of these policies, asking you to reach out to the president as well as your senators and representatives.
Please rest assured that NEFI is utilizing every connection we have in the Biden administration and in Congress to make sure that our industry’s concerns are heard at the highest levels of federal government.
What can I do?
The number-one thing you can do right now is prepare your business and your customers for whatever may come next. It is of the utmost importance that you plan for as many scenarios as possible. You know your business and customers best. If you have not already developed an action plan, NEFI encourages you to do so immediately. This plan should address your company’s line of credit, inventory and supply, profit and loss margins, and customer response. Additionally, the rise in petroleum futures may make renewable fuels an increasingly competitive choice. Work closely with your banks, suppliers, trade associations and communications partners.
What should I tell my customers?
First, be sure to explain the situation in clear and sympathetic terms. Feel free to use the “What is happening” response in this article.
Customers whose prices have been going up all season are already reeling and are looking for someone to blame. Listen to them closely, be honest, and let them know that you understand their concerns. Whenever possible, offer solutions specific to their needs. This may include pointing customers to government fuel assistance (LIHEAP) and other public and private low-income assistance programs, putting them on a budget plan for the coming season, adjusting their delivery schedule, offering energy conservation advice and other options. Work closely with your customer service team and your communications partners to develop messaging specific to your different types of customer accounts, as well as general communications (e.g., website and social media posts, blogs and newsletter articles, etc.) to address the broader concerns of all existing and potential customers.
How should I respond to media inquiries?
Again, the most important thing to do is be prepared. Do not respond to media inquiries “on the fly” or “off the cuff.” Advise your customer service team to take a message, including the journalist’s name, number and where they’re calling from. This will give you additional time to prepare. NEFI strongly encourages you to contact your state or local association for advice on responding to specific media outlets in your area and for help coordinating these interviews. If you receive a call from a national news outlet, please contact NEFI at 617-924-1000.
Who do I contact if I have additional concerns?
NEFI’s full team is standing by and ready to assist you. For questions about media inquiries and policy issues, please contact NEFI Vice President Jim Collura (email@example.com) or NEFI President Sean Cota (firstname.lastname@example.org). For questions about regulatory issues, please contact NEFI Regulatory Counsel Rick Schweitzer (email@example.com). For general inquiries, contact NEFI Business Manager Lisa Avery (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you have an urgent concern, please call the NEFI office at 617-924-1000.
This is not the first time the heating fuels industry has experienced extraordinary challenges. NEFI has been with you through wars, major market disruptions, a pandemic and more. We will get through this crisis together and we will continue to be there for you as we have always been. Should you need assistance or additional support, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Sean Cota is President and CEO of NEFI. He can be reached at 617-924-1000 or email@example.com.