Branstad says Obama, who backed ethanol in Iowa caucus campaigns, should reverse EPA’s stance

Source: Written by William Petroski, Des Moines Register • Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Branstad told reporters at his weekly news briefing he strongly opposes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal last week to scale back how much ethanol must be blended into gasoline. The mandate is known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS.

“Let me put it this way, I believe that preserving the RFS is extremely important to preserving this state’s farm economy,” and important to protecting jobs and the environment, Branstad said. “I believe the EPA is making a huge mistake and that needs to be reversed.”

The Republican governor described Obama as someone who backed the Renewable Fuel Standard while campaigning in the Iowa caucuses. Obama also carried Iowa in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. At the same time, 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain did not support the ethanol industry, he noted.

Asked if presidential candidates should be asked their stance on ethanol when the campaign in Iowa, Branstad said, “I think that anybody who aspires to be president of the United States also should make a commitment to continuing …the reduction of our dependency on foreign oil and our commitment to having more and more of our energy coming from renewable sources like ethanol and biodiesel.”

Branstad defended the impact of ethanol production upon cattle producers. He said cattle numbers in Texas have gone down somewhat because of the impact of a severe drought, which also brought higher corn prices. But corn prices are now closer to $4 a bushel , not $8 a bushel, he added.

“We are at a point of about the cost of production (for corn) and our concern is that reducing the Renewable Fuel Standard will actually drive the cost of corn below the cost of production, which will be damaging to our state’s economy,” Branstad said.

The governor said the oil industry, which he described as “Big Oil,” has spent huge amounts of money to battle the ethanol industry, not only in lobbying, but also in advertising.

He added that at the time that ethanol supporters were beginning to promote ethanol fuels back in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the oil industry said ethanol wasn’t needed because MTBE, also known as methyl tertiary butyl ether, could be used as an additive for gasoline, reducing harmful tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles. But MTBE created big problems because it polluted groundwater, he noted

The oil companies are hoping Americans have short memories, Branstad said. “This is a critical time and we should not let Big Oil reverse America’s progress and trends.” He added that ethanol has made a significant difference in reducing motor fuel prices, noting that ethanol-blended gasoline is selling at a cheaper cost in Iowa than regular gasoline without ethanol.