Iowa Governor Issues an Ethanol Warning for 2016

Source: Coral Davenport, New York Times • Posted: Friday, January 23, 2015

Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa is telling potential presidential candidates that if they want to win over the state’s voters next year, they should make clear now that they support ethanol production in a big way even as a powerful coalition of interest groups in Washington is working against it.

Mr. Branstad described his campaign as a multimillion-dollar effort to ensure that candidates who compete in the Iowa caucuses — still a year away — will support the federal renewable fuels standard. It requires that ethanol, a biofuel made chiefly from corn, is blended into gasoline mixes sold in the United States.

That requirement has been a boon to Iowa and other farm states by creating a new market for corn and new jobs in the production and refining industry.

“I’m very passionate about the renewable fuels standard,” Mr. Branstad, a Republican, said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. “This is a very important for our state’s economy, farm income and good jobs.”

But the federal standard is facing increasing opposition in Washington from an array of interest groups. Among them are the big oil companies, who say ethanol cuts into their bottom line; gasoline refiners, who say blending the fuel raises their costs; environmentalists, who say ethanol does little to reduce global warming, given the pollution emitted during production; automakers, who say it corrodes gas tanks; and groceries and humanitarian advocates, who say it contributes to higher food costs.

As a result, lawmakers from both parties have begun to look into ways to roll back or weaken the requirement.

Anticipating a clash, Iowans are doubling down on their ethanol campaign, called America’s Renewable Future. Its directors are planning aggressive advertising, polling and digital and social media outreach efforts in all of the state’s 99 counties.

“We’re designing it to look a lot like a presidential campaign, but the renewable fuels standard is our candidate,” said Eric Branstad, the governor’s son, who is a director of the campaign. “We will influence caucusgoers and candidates.”