Al Franken’s replacement adds another big voice for corn ethanol in the Senate

Source: By John Siciliano, Washington Examiner • Posted: Thursday, December 14, 2017

Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s replacement will add another big voice of support for corn ethanol in Congress as a group of Republicans looks to drastically curtail the nation’s biofuel mandate.

Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, also a Democrat, to replace Franken after he resigned last week over allegations of sexual misconduct.

Smith vowed to be “a fierce advocate in the United States Senate for economic opportunity and fairness for all Minnesotans.”

Dayton added that Smith was a key proponent in helping to expand “Minnesota’s clean energy economy” during her time as his lieutenant.

Smith showed particular support for corn ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard in that time. She and Dayton created Ethanol Day in Minnesota last year as a prime example of her support for the alcohol-based fuel.

“Ethanol is a critical tool in Minnesota’s energy and economic development toolbox,” Smith said in declaring Sept. 16 Ethanol Day last year. “Governor Dayton and I are committed to supporting the development of this homegrown Minnesota energy.”

The ethanol industry generates nearly $5 billion for Minnesota’s economy and more than 18,000 jobs, according to Smith.

Her appointment came the same day that staffers for senators who support corn ethanol and the RFS are meeting at the White House to discuss a way to resolve concerns raised by some GOP lawmakers over the harm that the ethanol mandate poses to refiners.

It is not clear how much she can get done as her appointment lasts one year, after which Minnesotans will go to the polls for a special election to choose a new senator to serve out the remainder of Franken’s term. The special election will be held concurrently with the 2018 General Election on Nov. 6.

“Smith will be appointed to serve a one-year term in the Senate, concluding in January 2019,” Dayton said.

Dayton sad Smith had focused on “building an economy that works for all Minnesotans” during her time as lieutenant governor. She also helped make “state government work better for the people it serves,” he said.