Iowa Poll: Iowans love ethanol law regardless of party

Source: By Christopher Doering, Des Moines Register • Posted: Tuesday, March 1, 2016

WASHINGTON — Regardless of their political party, Iowans strongly support a government program promoting ethanol — reaffirming its popularity in the nation’s No. 1 ethanol-producing state, according to results of the new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll.

Seventy-one percent of Iowans favor the Renewable Fuel Standard, a 2007 law requiring that an increasing amount of alternative fuels be blended into gasoline used by cars, trucks and other vehicles, while 21 percent oppose it. Eight percent are unsure.

It’s an issue that has avoided the deep partisan divide affecting many other issues in Iowa.

The poll shows that 66 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents favor the mandate. Iowans who consider themselves tea party supporters also like it, with 64 percent in favor.

“It’s good for Iowa. I grew up on a farm, and I’m voting with an economic interest,” said Democrat Les Aldrich, 56, a retired school

The poll was conducted by Selzer & Co., which surveyed 804 Iowa adults from Feb. 21-24. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Last fall, the Environmental Protection Agency said refiners will be required to blend 18.11 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2016, an increase from the agency’s 17.4 billion gallons proposed in May but well below the 22.25 billion target set by Congress in 2007.

The Renewable Fuel Standard is widely popular in Iowa not only because of its economic effect, but because critics who are lobbying to rein in the program lack an influential stronghold in the state, said David Swenson, an Iowa State University economist.

“For most Iowans, there isn’t a reason for it to be controversial,” Swenson said.

Historically, Iowa’s support of ethanol has been strong. In a January 2006 Iowa Poll, 62 percent of Iowans said they favor a requirement that all gasoline sold in the state contain ethanol.

But outside the Corn Belt, ethanol and the renewable-fuel mandate increasingly have drawn critics in recent years. Lawmakers and environmental, oil, livestock and restaurant groups have pushed to change the law, only to find that their efforts in Congress have failed to gain traction.

“This policy is outdated, and this program is broken,” said Frank Macchiarola, downstream director with the American Petroleum Institute. “With our current energy realities in mind, Congress must repeal or significantly reform the RFS to protect American consumers.”

RELATED:Iowa ethanol production hit record 4 billion gallons

Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, won the Iowa caucuses in February despite campaigning against the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Mark Nauman, 60, said he knows he’s in the minority when it comes to opposing the Renewable Fuel Standard. The Republican, who owns a landscaping company in Dubuque, said the public is being asked to shoulder too much of the financial burden to help producers of the fuel.

”People aren’t paying attention to how much this stuff costs. There comes a time when we have to figure out how much it costs everybody else in the scheme of things, and oftentimes that’s not taken into account,” Nauman said. “I can see subsidized help when there needs to be, but I think they might be going too far.”

Antonio Rivera, a physicist from Osklaloosa, supported corn-based ethanol and other renewable energy sources because oil  is “not going to last forever.”

Still, he’s concerned that too much corn is going toward the fuel, rather than to produce food or feed animals. He would like more funding to go toward other renewable fuel sources, such as grasses or algae.

“I’m not in love with ethanol per se, but looking at additional sources of energy, I’m 100 percent behind it,” said Rivera, 60, who identifies as an independent. “They’re not making any more oil in the ground.”


The Iowa Poll, conducted Feb. 21-24 for The Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 804 Iowans ages 18 or older. Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted households with randomly selected landline and cell

Questions based on the sample of 804 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20 the findings would not vary from the percentages shown here by more than plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Results based on smaller samples of respondents — such as by gender or age — have a larger margin of error.

Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines Register and Mediacom is prohibited.