A call for industry unity

March 24, 2022 By    

Our nation’s history provides many examples of the need for unity.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln called for unity as a source of strength for our nation. On the flip side, our enemies have reveled in and encouraged our disunity. For example, in 1956 during the Cold War, the USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev said: “We will destroy you [U.S.] from within.”

The principle of unity bringing strength and disunity weakening and destroying runs through all of life, including the propane industry.

The problem

This question of industry unity has perhaps never been so important today.

The National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) leadership is faced with challenges from some state associations to disaffiliate. What are the implications if NPGA leadership is not able to unite these important players? As individuals who support the NPGA, we must ask ourselves what we can do to help unify our industry.

The issue of industry unity is not new. Our industry’s unity has already been hurt by two of the three largest industry members – Ferrellgas and Suburban Propane – who have not been NPGA members for years. Because they represent about 15 percent of the industry’s gallons, and for some states a significant presence, their lack of NPGA membership sets a bad example for those who want to benefit from the work of NPGA without paying for it. Also, the lobbying efforts in some state associations are hurt as their employees are disenfranchised.

These issues are compounded by the complaints of independent marketers about the lack of value they get from their NPGA dues.

Our industry is an easy target for bureaucrats and today’s politicians who seek to make our business more complex and costly, or put us out of business through electrification and gas bans. Our status as a small industry places us at a distinct competitive disadvantage. To give context, the propane industry’s entire employment is the same as Exxon’s. As a result, propane is easily ignored or misunderstood.

The solution

Who stands in the gap between your business and the bureaucrat or federal politician? The NPGA.

How has its fight for each of us been harmed by the division in our industry? How much more harm will further division cause? These are questions each of us must answer.

In our industry, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) and NPGA represent our common interests. PERC is the collaborator of growth and safety. NPGA is our unifier and chief advocate on policy and government regulations, a world that few outside the D.C. Beltway fully understand. Therefore, beware of the opinion that disparages NPGA’s value because of a lack of understanding of the important work at the national level and its assistance to state associations. This is an easy trap.

What can each of us do to help unify our industry under the NPGA umbrella?

1. Be an outspoken advocate of the NPGA. The NPGA should not have to justify itself to the membership. That’s a job for each of us, especially state association executives and their volunteer leaders. Defend the NPGA when it is being unfairly criticized.

2. Use your influence to persuade marketers to join the NPGA, especially Ferrellgas and Suburban Propane. Their lack of membership hurts us on many levels.

3. Trust that NPGA leadership is doing its job well and using its limited resources wisely. Steve Kaminski, president and CEO of NPGA, cares deeply for our industry’s well-being and is a bright, energetic visionary. The NPGA officers and Executive Committee volunteer their time and mental energy to bring vision and accountability in solving our industry’s challenges.

Our common interests include threats and foes that individually we cannot defeat. Let’s not make Jesus’ words a reality: “A house divided against itself shall not stand.”

Editor’s Note: Ferrellgas rejoined the NPGA in June 2022.

Randy Doyle is a 40-year industry veteran who serves on the NPGA board of directors and is active in the Virginia Propane Gas Association. He is a past PERC councilor. He consults with Holtzman Propane in Mt. Jackson, Virginia.

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