Time for change arrives

January 1, 2002 By    

The new year always arrives with the opportunity for a fresh start, even though most of us never do fulfill that resolution to quit smoking or to drop a few belt notches with a smarter, more disciplined regimen.

This year could well mark a significant moment of change in the way the propane industry as a whole does business. The National Propane Gas Association’s board of directors meets Feb. 11 and 12 in California to vote on a recommendation to consolidate its two offices and re-establish headquarters in Washington, D.C.

This hotly debated issue represents far more than a timely opportunity to improve efficiency and pare NPGA operational costs, however. To many, it’s a concession that the time has come for NPGA to relinquish its industry leadership role to the Propane Education & Research Council.

NPGA already has taken several steps in that direction, surrendering traditional duties of research and development, marketing and consumer education to PERC. Those moves effectively relegate the association to an agenda of regulation and legislation. Hence, a move to Washington avails substantially more staff and dollars for those vital battles.

Critics of the NPGA say the power shift is long overdue. They’ve criticize the association, which has its $5 million budget controlled by a 140-plus member board of directors, for being too slow and unwieldy to effectively plan and navigate on behalf of the industry. Discussions and agenda items can languish for years, making most meaningful decisions almost exclusively reactive rather than proactive, they claim.

PERC, on the other hand, has a $32 million annual budget run by a 21-member council. While it has taken shots for specific funding decisions and priorities, the four-year-old council gets high marks for creating clear road maps, laying crucial groundwork and moving forward with diverse projects with substantial promise.

For many, the bottom line is that PERC has a more efficient decision-making mechanism – in addition to much deeper pockets – to serve the industry’s many needs.

I’ve never been much of a New Year’s prognosticator; we’ll leave that to psychics and pundits who claim to have 20-20 foresight. But I do see significant change coming for the propane industry this year, and the first step is likely to take place in California next month.

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