I always remember a scene from the movie ‘The American President” where Martin Sheen (chief of staff) tells Michael Douglass (president): ‘You fight the fights you can win? You fight the fights that need fighting!” I recently attended my first PMAA Day on the Hill as part of the Connecticut contingency representing home energy marketers. I was reminded of that quote as we visited the offices of all seven congresspeople. I was the new guy at this and I had never even been near a congressperson, so I just kept quiet and hoped no one would ask me a question. Well, it did not go that way. In the first meeting I was asked to explain to a senior aid how speculation in the commodities markets effects consumers.
I was prepared for this as I have a financial background and was licensed to trade securities and commodities in my past. I found that the people we spoke with were genuinely interested in what we had to say. They were actually asking for additional information to help them present a case in favor of our cause. They all agreed with our position and spoke favorably about commodity reforms. I was also very happy to learn that everyone we met with was in favor of reauthorizing NORA;, however, Washington politics is a complex matter and they all voted against it as it was attached to the farm bill. We thanked them for their support and they all apologized for not being able to vote for it. It’s a strange process.
We were able to share our views on many items that affect our industry. We talked about the high paying jobs we provide compared to other industries. I don’t think I have met a home energy marketer who pays his or her employees anywhere near minimum wage. Our group spoke about Bioheat©, and how with the combination of biofuel and ultra-low sulfur heating oil we are on our way to supplying the cleanest most environmentally friendly carbon based fuel on the planet. And, we can make it even cleaner. I also learned that many people who we met with had grouped biofuel in with ethanol as it is all part of the renewable fuel standards. We explained that biofuel has a net gain as one gallon of diesel fuel can produce 3.8 gallons of biofuel unlike ethanol, which has a net negative effect.
We also spoke about supply and distribution issues and the negative environmental effects of natural gas. We pointed out the article which appeared in the April 30, 2014 issue of Forbes titled ‘Winter 2014: How Fuel Oil Saved the Day in New England.” We explained that we are the fuel of last resort in a crisis and keeping the industry healthy is in the national interest. I thought we made a lot of progress in getting our point across.
We may not win every fight for the industry; however, we need to keep fighting the fights that need fighting and I would like to encourage anyone who is reading this to keep fighting the fight.
I usually write about company value and acquisitions so this is a little different for me to be writing about my time in D.C. However, this industry has supported me and my family and I want to give back in a positive way. I hope you feel the same way and will continue to work through your local, state and federal representatives to keep our industry healthy and prosperous.
Steve Abbate is the president of Cetane Associates, which provides hands-on merger and acquisition advisory services for privately held companies. Abbate has been providing M&A advisory services for most of his career. In addition to his track record of completing over seventy successful transactions, he has consulted with and performed financial and operational evaluations on hundreds of businesses throughout the U.S.