The industry can thwart threats by banding together

December 11, 2013 By    

In the early 17th century, German Lutheran theologian Rupertus Meldenius coined the phrase “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

As true today as it was then, the wisdom found in this phrase is a good reminder for groups and organizations with a common purpose. The propane industry in the United States would be well served to reflect on this when considering the role of our National Propane Gas Association (NPGA).

Many members of the propane industry, consumed by the challenges of running a business, often have little time to understand the association’s value. To skeptics, the benefits reported by the association are often obscure, irrelevant and abstract. NPGA’s value is not tangible to them. Is this a fair conclusion about its value? Consider the following:

The U.S. business climate is increasingly regulated due to the current political landscape. This makes NPGA’s work to protect our industry from increased regulation, onerous rules and mountains of bureaucracy more important than ever. Most government officials who craft these laws and regulations have little understanding of the propane business. The advocacy programs of NPGA help educate them on the consequences of their rules.

In addition, the propane industry is a very small player in the vast energy sector. Propane’s continued omission from legislation to give tax incentives for alternative fuels is the perfect example of this point.

Finally, the entire propane industry coalescing together is the best way to defend our businesses and customers from the onslaught of legislative threats and unfair regulations. Not even the largest MLP propane producers or marketers can defend themselves in the legislative battles on Capitol Hill. We need the association to work on our behalf.

Has NPGA been effective? On many fronts, the answer is yes. Its success with legislation to protect our customers from unfair pipeline rate increases is one example. Annual pipeline charges totaling millions of dollars have been reduced as a result of NPGA’s advocacy effort with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

So, how can our industry membership stay informed on association activities? Its newsletter, NPGA Reports, and President and CEO Rick Roldan’s letter to members is a good place to start. Attending meetings and sharing your issues with staff and fellow industry members can also have a significant impact on setting the advocacy agenda for our industry.

The inner workings of Washington, D.C. – with the regulatory rulemaking and policymaking process – can be very complex. Few understand the nature of the work and the complex challenge NPGA must undertake on behalf of everyone whose careers and capital are invested in the propane industry. Very few outside Washington, D.C., have ever done this work. It’s like asking a non-military person who has never experienced war to fully appreciate the struggle and sacrifice by the veteran who won the battle.

Are you a skeptic of NPGA’s value to you? Rethink your position. There is no way one person or group can defend their business from unreasonable and unfair legislation and regulations. These rules drafted almost daily can hurt both individual businesses and the propane industry as a whole.

At the same time, the propane industry needs your support. The NPGA’s staff and elected officers should not be the only vocal advocates of our association.

I am reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s advice during the American Revolution: “We must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang apart.”

Is this an overstatement? Perhaps, but in today’s highly volatile political climate, where the propane industry is a very small player, we need unified support and appreciation for the association. In the end, by hanging together in support of the association, we will have a stronger industry. LPG

Randy Doyle is CFO for Blossman Gas in Ocean Springs, Miss. He can be reached at rdoyle@blossmangas.com.

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About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is the senior editor of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at kyanik@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3724.

1 Comment on "The industry can thwart threats by banding together"

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  1. Jeff Shaffer says:

    An excellent analysis of marketer indifference, and failure to understand the efforts and importance of NPGA regarding federal regulations. One of our greatest costs is dealing with regulation and marketers ignore this cost all to often.