Industry-backed survey shows bipartisan candidate support for RFS

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 4, 2012

There is wide support among farm-state congressional candidates for the federal biofuel incentives, an ethanol industry survey this week shows.

The American Coalition for Ethanol sent the two-question survey to candidates in Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota. All candidates who responded said they would work to keep the federal renewable fuel standard intact, and most said they would push for an extension of cellulosic biofuel tax incentives set to expire at the end of the year.

“I fully support keeping the RFS intact because it is our most effective national policy for displacing imported petroleum with domestic renewable fuels,” said Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), who is running a tight re-election campaign against fellow Iowa incumbent Rep. Tom. Latham (R).

The show of support comes as critics of the standard, which mandates 36 billion gallons of biofuel production by 2022, have heightened their attacks after the drought this summer wiped out much of the corn crop. Several livestock-state governors have asked U.S. EPA to waive the corn ethanol portion of the standard for up to a year.

“Our survey reveals strong bipartisan support for the RFS and for leveling the playing field between oil and biofuels,” said Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol. “In addition to making these survey results public, ACE will take a number of steps prior to the election to mobilize grass-roots support for the RFS.”

From Indiana, Senate Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly responded to the questionnaire. In Iowa, Rep. Steve King (R) and his challenger Christie Vilsack (D) answered, along with Boswell and Latham. Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri also responded.

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-N.D.) and her challenger Matt Varilek (D) answered, as did Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat running for a Senate seat in North Dakota against Rep. Rick Berg (R).

Along with describing support for the renewable fuel standard, almost all candidates said they would push for an extension of biofuel tax incentives and for the end of federal oil subsidies to help build the fledgling cellulosic biofuel industry. The $1.01-per-gallon cellulosic production tax credit expires at the end of the year.

“Extending the cellulosic tax credits beyond 2012 will help create the financial environment to encourage investment in this infant industry,” Iowa’s King said.

Minnesota’s Peterson, the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, was more measured in his support.

“While I’ve been supportive of these tax incentives in the past, I can’t say with certainty that these incentives will continue in the future,” he wrote. “What I can tell you is that I will do what I can to balance the tax code between fossil fuels and biofuels.”