Ethanol advocates join for hearing in Des Moines

Source: By CATHERINE LUCEY, Associated Press • Posted: Friday, January 24, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad gathered Midwestern politicians and ethanol supporters in Des Moines on Thursday for a daylong hearing to criticize a proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the amount of ethanol that must be blended with gasoline.

The EPA has proposed reducing by nearly 3 billion gallons the amount of biofuels required to be blended into gasoline in 2014. The EPA in November reported that the additive had become less necessary in light of fuel-efficient engines and lower fuel demand.

But political leaders in Iowa, the nation’s top ethanol-producing state, say such a move would devastate Iowa’s economy and cost thousands of jobs.

“Renewable fuels have created high-paying jobs and rewarding careers right here in the agricultural heartland of America,” said Branstad, a Republican. “The EPA’s proposal on the (Renewable Fuel Standard) could have devastating effects on this growth and on job creation.”

The gathering is meant to highlight criticism of the proposed change to the Renewable Fuel Standard and put pressure on the EPA to reconsider.

“Federal policy should not undermine innovation and further advances in such an important sector,” said Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, calling the proposed change the “wrong policy at the wrong time.”

Iowa’s Republican congressmen and industry representatives from several Midwestern states also were expected to speak at the event. Iowa is the nation’s leading producer of ethanol, a fuel additive primarily made from corn that produces lower carbon emissions than gasoline.

Branstad said he asked the EPA to host a hearing in Iowa on this issue, but the agency declined. Thursday’s event was supported by Iowa’s entire congressional delegation, but Sen. Tom Harkin and U.S. Reps. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack, the Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation, could not attend due to scheduling reasons, according to Branstad’s office. But a Democratic state lawmaker, state Sen. Jeff Danielson, of Cedar Falls, was scheduled to speak.

The Renewable Fuel Standard is part of 2007 legislation signed by President George W. Bush and updated under President Barack Obama that called for increasing annually the minimum amount of renewable fuels, including ethanol, in the nation’s fuel supply. The EPA’s November proposal marked the first time the government had called for rolling back that minimum requirement.

The EPA stated in its November report that the additive had become less necessary in light of fuel-efficient engines and lower fuel demand. The recent boom in domestic oil production has also made ethanol less prized as a U.S.-produced fuel that limits dependence on foreign oil. The grain alcohol burns cleaner than gasoline but produces less energy.

The EPA is currently taking public comments on the recommendation. In a statement, agency spokesman David Bloomgren said the EPA looks forward to receiving additional information during the process of finalizing the rule.