Grassley slams restaurant, chicken industries for ‘smearing’ biofuel producers 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, May 21, 2015

Iowa’s senior senator yesterday took to the Senate floor to lambast the chain restaurant and chicken industries for what he described as “smearing” ethanol producers with a recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal.

In the floor speech, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said the editorial published last week contained “erroneous and intellectually dishonest claims.” He defended ethanol as an important part of an all-of-the-above energy policy.

“In recent years, our national security and economic well-being has been too dependent on oil imports from tin-horn dictators and regimes that sought to do us harm,” Grassley said. “We don’t need to put a Navy fleet in harm’s way to protect the shipping lanes for biofuels out of the Midwest.”

The senator’s speech comes during a time of uncertainty for the renewable fuel standard, which Congress passed in 2007 to require refiners to use both conventional ethanol and advanced biofuels. Many members of both the House and Senate have called for either its reform or repeal, mostly citing negative economic and environmental consequences tied to increased ethanol production.

In The Wall Street Journal editorial, the National Council of Chain Restaurants and the National Chicken Council charged that ethanol production was raising the costs of corn and other food commodities. Higher prices affect both livestock producers — who rely on corn for animal feed — and restaurants, the editorial said.

National Council of Chain Restaurants Executive Director Rob Green and National Chicken Council President Mike Brown called on Congress to eliminate the renewable fuel standard.

“The food industry isn’t anti-ethanol,” they wrote. “Repealing the fuel standard would simply require the ethanol industry to compete in the marketplace just like restaurants, food distributors and chicken farmers do every day — without a government mandate guaranteeing secure and growing sales.”

Grassley, who has long championed ethanol in Congress, said in his speech that the editorial gave him a “sense of déjà vu,” pointing to past campaigns by different sectors of the food industry to eliminate the renewable fuel standard.

Citing data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Grassley sought to ward off arguments that ethanol production was increasing the price of food and corn. He noted that the average price of corn this year is expected to be $3.50 a bushel, or 17 percent below the price in 2007, when the most recent version of the RFS was signed into law.

“It’s been proven time and again by the [U.S] EPA, USDA and others — there is no correlation between corn prices or ethanol production and retail food inflation or food prices,” Grassley said. “It’s just a fact.”

The Iowa senator argued that some of the corn used to make ethanol is returned to the livestock industry as animal feed. He also said that food inflation was at its lowest rate of increase so far in this decade and cited USDA projections for record red meat and poultry production in 2016.

“The federal government made a commitment to homegrown, renewable energy when Congress passed the renewable fuel standard. The policy is working,” Grassley said. “I intend to defend all attacks against this successful program whether they come from Big Oil, the EPA, big food or others.”

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