O’Malley: EPA should back off lowering ethanol requirement

Source: By Grant Rodgers,, Des Moines Register • Posted: Monday, July 6, 2015

Democratic presidential candidate, former Maryland

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Ia. – Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley strongly backed renewable fuel producers on Thursday, calling on the Obama administration to rethink its controversial proposal to lower standards for the amount of ethanol that will be mixed into U.S. gasoline through the next year.

Any lowering of the targets set by Congress in the Renewable Fuel Standard will only scare investors at a time when it’s crucial that companies continue investing in clean energy technology, O’Malley said.

“We should keep these standards always moving up,” he said. “When you do things like reversing or lowering standards, it sends tremors through the marketplace and sends word to investors that this is an unstable future.”

The former Maryland governor’s remarks came at the outset of a three-day Iowa tour intended to highlight his proposal to fully power America’s electrical grid on clean energy by 2050.

The Environmental Protection Agency in May released a plan requiring 17.4 billion gallons of ethanol to be mixed in America’s gasoline through 2016 – well below the 22.3 billion-gallon target set by Congress in 2007. The EPA has argued that reducing the amount is necessary because of changes in consumption and slow growth in the production of cellulosic ethanol made from corn stover or switchgrass.

But the proposal has been criticized by Iowa producers and Gov. Terry Branstad who argue ethanol is vital to the state’s rural economy.

In what was more of an informal Q&A, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association President Brian Cahill told the Democratic candidate that ethanol is key to keeping young Iowans in the state. O’Malley peppered the ethanol CEO with questions about developments in cellulosic ethanol technology and production processes at the plant south of Council Bluffs, which has 62 full-time employees and pumps out 125 million gallons of ethanol yearly.

The tour comes as O’Malley’s favorability among Iowa Democrats remains low. A Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday showed O’Malley with support from 3 percent of likely caucusgoers, widely trailing U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The candidate made light of his position in front of an enthusiastic crowd Thursday evening at 1908 Draught House, a Waukee bar and grill.

“The thing about the people of Iowa is you’re not intimated by big money, you’re not intimidated by polls, you’re not intimidated by pundits,” he said. “And I can tell you that’s very reassuring because when you run for president with 1 percent name recognition, it is a fine line between imagination and delusion.”

Democratic presidential hopeful talks about renewable fuels after touring an Iowa ethanol plant.

At a Creston house party, Terry Ammon, 72, a retired nurse and Clinton supporter, said she was impressed by O’Malley’s stances on handling the country’s prison population and health care.

Karl Knoch, CEO of Iowa State Savings Bank, said O’Malley’s challenge will be rallying Iowans by focusing his message on the executive experience he gained as a governor. Knoch hosted the Creston party at his home, where O’Malley took questions on his leadership in education reform and water quality efforts.

“He obviously has a deep level of experience as an executive in a populous state with its own agriculture industry,” he said. “He was impressive today.”

Though O’Malley has praised the president in past Iowa stops, the Obama administration made the wrong decision in a move that could open the Arctic to oil drilling, he told reporters during a Q&A at the ethanol plant. In May, the administration — over environmentalists’ objections — gave Shell conditional approval to drill six exploratory wells off the Alaskan coast.

“I believe that we should be subsidizing new clean energy technologies and we should stop subsidizing and encouraging the sort of extraction of fossil fuels that are such a danger to our Earth’s future,” he said.