Poll finds ethanol, RFS aren’t major concerns for Iowa voters

Source: Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, January 25, 2016

A poll released Friday by a conservative think tank found ethanol and the federal program that supports its production doesn’t rank among Iowa voters’ biggest concerns.

The American Council for Capital Formation said ethanol and the renewable fuel standard were not among the top three issues for 94 percent of Iowans.

Iowans’ top concerns, the poll found, are the economy, foreign policy and health issues.

According to the poll, half of the respondents said they didn’t care much or didn’t care at all about the RFS, which would boost biofuels production to 36 billion gallons annually by 2022.

The poll’s release comes less than two weeks before Iowans participate in presidential primary caucuses, the first contest of the 2016 race for the White House.

The Hawkeye State is the top U.S. producer of ethanol, and many analysts view biofuels as a key issue for the state, particularly in rural areas.

“As this polling makes clear, not only aren’t folks in the nation’s largest corn-producing state paying particularly close attention to the back-and-forth over the RFS, they’re definitely not using it as some sort of litmus test in determining who to vote for,” said David Banks, ACCF’s executive vice president, in a statement.

About 39 percent of the 700 registered voters polled said they wanted presidential candidates to spend more time talking about the RFS, while 57 percent said they don’t want candidates to address the topic.

The poll’s error margin is 3.7 percentage points.

Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad recently urged state residents not to vote for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the upcoming caucuses. Cruz has long opposed the mandate and has introduced legislation to repeal the program. The RFS was signed into law by President George W. Bush in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act.

Michael Frohlich, a spokesman with the ethanol trade group Growth Energy, refuted the findings.

“When it comes to Iowans’ supporting ethanol, all but two candidates running for president have expressed their support for the RFS. This is an issue that is frequently discussed in Iowa, and the fact remains clear that Iowans support ethanol and the candidates that are supportive of renewable fuels,” he said in an email.