Dem Senate candidate blasts Obama admin over forthcoming ethanol decision

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Democratic candidate for Senate in South Dakota is taking aim at the Obama administration over a widely expected rollback of next year’s ethanol mandate

In appearances on a local TV station and in a statement yesterday, Rick Weiland said the proposal by U.S. EPA, if similar to a draft that circulated last month, amounts to a giveaway of billions of dollars to the cash-flush oil industry.

“If you ever thought big money special interests control only the Republican Party, this is the proof that you are wrong,” Weiland said in his statement. “Big oil has been trying to gut the renewable fuels industry for years. They have poured millions of the dollars they steal from us at the pump into high priced lobbying and huge political contributions. Now, it appears the EPA will soon cave into pressure from oil companies and propose a cut in ethanol use next year.”

Weiland, who began his career working for former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), is running against former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) for the open Senate seat of retiring Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.). Weiland is currently a small-business owner in Sioux Falls and previously was CEO of the International Code Council, a Clinton appointee to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and South Dakota state director for AARP.

Weiland has run his campaign on a platform against big-money special interests.

“Big corporations have embedded themselves into our government, wasting our tax dollars with bloated contracts and buying off the people who are supposed to be giving us a fair shake,” he says on his website.

Lawmakers and candidates in South Dakota, the nation’s sixth-largest ethanol-producing state, generally support the renewable fuels industry regardless of political stripe. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), for example, has been both a tea party champion and a strong supporter of biofuel and energy programs in the discussions over shaping the next five-year farm bill.

And a former executive at ethanol giant POET LLC, Rob Skjonsberg, figures prominently in the Rounds campaign.

EPA’s proposed 2014 targets for ethanol and advanced biofuel production were still at the White House Office of Management and Budget for review as of yesterday. In the draft, EPA proposed reducing the conventional ethanol target for next year by 1.4 billion gallons largely on concerns raised by refiners over the feasible amount of ethanol that can be blended into petroleum-based fuel.

The proposal, if similar to the draft, is likely to engender criticism from all sides. Biofuels groups have argued that it would severely undercut investment in next-generation fuels and shutter ethanol plants around the country, while oil industry groups say it doesn’t go far enough.

Other ethanol-state politicians have jumped into the fray over the proposal. Yesterday, Iowa Rep. Dave Loebsack (D) said it would be a “slap in the face to farmers, rural communities, and Iowa’s economy.” Republican Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) met with OMB last week to also call for robust renewable fuel targets next year.