Branstad worries drought misinformation could hurt ethanol business

Source: ROD BOSHART Journal Des Moines bureau • Posted: Tuesday, August 7, 2012

DES MOINES | Gov. Terry Branstad on Monday said that bad decisions at the federal level could negatively impact renewable fuels at a time when America is making gains in reducing its dependency on foreign oil

“I just think we need to do a better job of informing and educating people so they don’t panic over something like this drought situation and do something stupid like reducing our production of alternative fuels that have made a difference in reducing our dependency on foreign oil,” Branstad said.

Branstad was responding to recent calls to suspend federal renewable energy standards as drought conditions drive corn prices to record levels, with negative effects on the livestock industry and other economic sectors.

He said many people are misinformed about Iowa’s corn crop and that ethanol is impacting food production, which is incorrect. About 16 percent of Iowa’s 88.2 million net corn acres are used to produce ethanol, Branstad said.

He worries this summer’s short-term problems could trigger changes in policy that would hurt renewable fuels.

“We’ve just got to get the facts out and not let people be bamboozled by misinformation by people that don’t have any knowledge of where food comes from and how it’s produced and the impact that this has had,” he said.

Branstad on Monday also said he and other Iowa Republicans hoped to convince presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to support at least a temporary extension of federal wind energy tax credits. Officials have said nearly 7,000 Iowa jobs are tied to the wind industry, which relies on the tax credits to remain profitable.

Branstad said the federal tax credit has been helpful to Iowa’s wind energy “and when it’s expired in the past, we’ve seen the growth of this industry dramatically reduced, so we think it needs to be extended again and we’re hopeful that indeed the Congress will, and future President Romney will sign it.”

Recently, Romney’s campaign said that he favors doing away with federal wind energy tax credits if elected president in November.

Romney is scheduled to appear at a private fundraiser Tuesday in West Des Moines. Branstad is not attending because of a scheduling conflict.