Ethanol rises above partisanship

Source: By Joseph Morton / World-Herald bureau • Posted: Monday, November 11, 2013

WASHINGTON — Two Iowa congressmen are setting aside ideological differences to wage a united fight in defense of the corn-based ethanol industry, an economic engine in the Hawkeye State.

Coming from the left is Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat from eastern Iowa who is running for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat. From the right is Rep. Steve King, an outspoken hard-line conservative from northwest Iowa with a history of making provocative comments.

The pair will appear together Tuesday at a Capitol Hill event hosted by Iowa State University’s Bioeconomy Institute.

That session will feature experts on the current state of biofuels, including production and consumption, supply and demand, market conditions and other aspects. The goal is to blunt gathering momentum for reductions in the Renewable Fuel Standard, the federal mandate that oil companies blend a certain amount of biofuels every year into the gasoline supply.

Oil companies have lobbied furiously to get relief from the requirements, arguing that the standard is outdated and eventually calls for unreachable levels of ethanol usage. It appears that they have made some headway.

The current requirement stands at 13.8 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol for 2013. Instead of increasing that level next year as planned, the Environmental Protection Agency is contemplating reducing the requirement to 13 billion for 2014, Reuters has reported on the basis of leaked EPA documents.

Lawmakers from the oil producing Gulf Coast region also are looking at legislation to roll back the requirements.

Braley recently wrote to President Barack Obama, saying he is “angered and frustrated” with the administration and urging Obama to meet with Iowans on the issue.

The congressman cited Obama’s own words earlier this year: “Biofuels are already reducing our dependence on oil, cutting pollution and creating jobs around the country.”

Braley described the apparent shift in Renewable Fuel Standard policy as an “unprecedented pivot from current energy policy that will severely damage economies all across the Midwest and endanger consumer choice at the pump for years to come.”

He noted that more than 63,000 of the jobs Obama highlighted in July are located in Iowa, a huge ethanol producer.

“Given your history of support for this policy and your current climate change agenda, I’m stunned that the White House is caving to big oil instead of holding them accountable to the statutory requirements they have been aware of since 2005 and 2007,” Braley wrote.

“Since casting your votes in support of the Energy Policy Act in 2005 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 you have led a White House that has promised cleaner resources for the future.”