Ethanol Advocates ‘Encouraged’ After Clinton Expresses Support for Renewables

Source: By Ari Natter, Bloomberg BNA • Posted: Friday, April 17, 2015

Ethanol advocates say they are optimistic about Hillary Clinton’s support for renewable fuels after remarks the Democratic candidate made during a private meeting in Iowa April 15.

Patty Judge, co-chair of America’s Renewable Future, a pro-ethanol trade association, told Bloomberg BNA that Clinton expressed support for “maintaining the renewable fuel standard,” or RFS, during a meeting with about eight other people in which topics ranged from health care to transportation.

“We were very pleased to hear her say she understood the importance of the renewable fuel standard,” Judge said in an interview. “We felt very good after the meeting.”

The Des Moines-based group represents organizations such as the Iowa Corn Growers and Growth Energy.

“I was able to thank Secretary Clinton for her past support of the RFS, and I am confident future conversations will be just as positive,” Bruce Rohwer, an Iowa Corn Growers board member, said in a statement following the meeting.

Opposition as Senator

As a senator of New York, Clinton voted against the 2005 law creating the renewable fuel standard, requiring the use of ethanol in the motor fuel supply.

But on the campaign trail during her 2008 presidential bid, Clinton called for increasing funding for ethanol and more tax incentives for the alternative fuel source to be paid for by repealing tax incentives the oil industry receives. She also called for increasing biofuel production to 60 billion gallons by 2030.

“Home-grown biofuels can reduce our dependence on foreign oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions,” Clinton said in 2008 during a visit to a Pittsburgh gas station, according to a transcript archived by the University of California. “Rapid growth of corn ethanol production capacity in recent years and emerging technology that will enable production of ethanol and other biofuels from a range of biomass sources indicate the potential of biofuels to displace a significant amount of gasoline.”

Environmental Impact

More recently, the issue has split Senate Democrats. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has voiced concerns about the environmental impacts of corn ethanol and sponsored legislation (S. 577) to strip the corn ethanol requirement from the renewable fuel standard.

The standard, expanded by a 2007 energy law, requires 15 billion gallons of conventional corn ethanol and 21 billion gallons of advanced ethanol be put into the nation’s motor fuel supply by 2022. Refiners such as Chevron Corp. and ExxonMobil Corp. oppose it and ethanol producers such as Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Abengoa Bioenergy support it.

In addition, the standard has been seen as ripe for reform by lawmakers frustrated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing delays in issuing the annual renewable fuel standard, but many analysts don’t believe congressional action will occur until after the 2016 election.