Ethanol industry ‘leading the way,’ Martin O’Malley says in Council Bluffs

Source: By Tim Rohwer, Omaha World-Herald News Service • Posted: Monday, July 6, 2015

COUNCIL BLUFFS — Clean, renewable energy is a focus of Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley, who was impressed with the work being done at the Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy plant south of Council Bluffs.

The former Maryland governor has ambitious ideas about energy. He said that if elected he would aim to achieve 100 percent of clean energy on the nation’s electrical grid by 2050.

On other energy issues, O’Malley said he opposes the Keystone XL pipeline project from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, as well as new oil drilling off the Atlantic Coast.

Not surprisingly, O’Malley praised the work of SIRE and Iowa’s other ethanol plants during his visit.

“You guys are doing exciting things,” he told plant officials during a tour there Thursday. “You guys are leading the way.”

Among other capabilities, SIRE turns corn into ethanol, a fuel octane, the company’s president told O’Malley.

“We’re the cheapest octane, ethanol,” Brian Cahill said. “Consumers are able to buy gasoline at a lower price. It has a lot of support. Even NASCAR is promoting ethanol.”

Cahill also told O’Malley about jobs created within the ethanol industry.

“Our facility has 62 full-time employees and we’re not seasonal either,” Cahill said. “In fact, in Iowa there are 42 ethanol plants employing 2,000 people.”

Thousands of other jobs rely on this industry, said Cahill, including farmers, truckers, railroad employees and construction workers.

There has been concern since the Environmental Protection Agency proposed lowering the country’s ethanol-use mandates for this year and next, Cahill said.

Instead of 15 billion gallons of ethanol annual production, the EPA has proposed standard targets of 13.4 billion gallons.

“There’s political pressure from petroleum and oil companies,” Cahill said. “These companies don’t want to give up more market share. It’s another obstacle for this industry to overcome.”

O’Malley sided with Cahill’s concern.

“We should seek standards that move up,” he said. “I think we should avoid lowering standards.”