Charlie Good wasn’t going to leave his business last week when a call came in from Washington, D.C., that Good was needed there to speak to the president. “They called on Wednesday to be there for a Thursday meeting, but I just had too much going on,” he said.
But the people who work for Good and his wife convinced him that he needed to go.
“President Trump had said he wanted to meet with eight people who get their fingernails dirty in this (renewable fuels) business,” Good said. “I was told I was the first retailer they (Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Jodi Ernst) thought about.”
It wasn’t his first trip to Washington. Good, who has made renewable fuels like E15 a mainstay for his business, has made other trips to D.C. and become a fairly well-known and outspoken spokesman for the importance of supporting renewable fuels and the RFS (Renewable Fuels Standard). The trip last week was, however, the first time he’d been invited to go into the West Wing of the White House. It was also his first time to meet President Donald J. Trump, who he’d supported with his vote in the 2016 election.
It was a quick trip for Good, even quicker, because he missed his flight Wednesday night, and had to fly out instead on Thursday morning for the Thursday afternoon meeting. Right when he got there, he was rushed into a pre-meeting. “We were told that Trump wanted to hear from us … We were told that when you talk to the president, make it quick, one or two sentences or he’ll cut you off.” Good said that was exactly how it played out. Anyone who talked too long, got cut short.
During the meeting, Good had about 10 or so minutes of actual time to talk to Trump. Each time he talked, he made things short and to the point.
What was most exciting for Good is that he was seated right next to White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly, and he got a chance to engage in conversation with Kelly several times during the meeting.
“When I saw I was sitting by Gen. Kelly, I was blown away … sitting by a four-star general.” Good said sitting by Kelly was perhaps even more of an honor for him than being in a meeting with the president. It was all huge to Good, who came away saying Kelly took lots of notes and asked questions here and there of him to be sure he (Kelly) understood everything he could about E15 and other renewable fuels matters. He was on top of things, in Good’s opinion.
The biggest holdup for year-round sales of E15, which Good was there to promote, is the RVP (Reid Vapor Pressure) rule, implemented by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Good said giving parity to the rule would allow E15 to be sold year-round, which everybody in the room agreed to, he said.
Senator Ted Cruz was in the room, according to Good, because he doesn’t want to see anything happen that will hurt big oil companies. Cruz was proposing a 10-cent cap on RINS (Renewable Identification Number). Good said it got tense at times, with Iowa Senator Charles Grassley shutting down Cruz when he started to talk.
Good believes he was able to help get the point across that allowing E15 sales year-round would drop RINS prices and give relief to the refiners in the oil industry. He said Cruz disagreed.
“At one point,” Good said, “President Trump asked me point blank, ‘Why is there not more E15 sold across the country?’ I told him because three-and-a-half months a year, we are not allowed to sell it to cars that can burn it.”
Good said he firmly believes after all that Trump heard, Trump wants the EPA to correct the rule so E15 can be sold year-round nationwide.
If any of this becomes law, Good hopes he can be invited back for the signing.
As for his impressions of the president, Good said, “It’s all about the deal. He wants results; he doesn’t care about the details … it’s ‘Let’s get it done.’” And that all works for Good. And anyone who knows that Good has a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is way of doing things, will know he’s not lying about this comment. “As I was leaving, he (Trump) tapped me on the arm and shook my hand and said, ‘You’re a rambunctious sort, aren’t you?’”
To Good, that was a great moment. And he said others there commended him on how he got the attention of the room when he spoke.
What it boiled down to, Good said, is that he might have been part of the “best-ever week for ethanol. In one hour, we may have changed the future of ethanol forever.”