Sioux Falls-based ethanol producer hires lobbyist to fight big oil

Source: Written by CHRISTOPHER DOERING, Gannett Washington Bureau • Posted: Monday, July 8, 2013

Poet, one of the world’s largest ethanol producers, has hired a lobbyist as the company battles the oil industry.

The company hired Rob Walther as its director of federal affairs to represent the firm in Washington, D.C. The company said Walther will represent Poet and highlight the value of domestic, renewable biofuel in talks with members of Congress, their staffs and federal agencies regulating renewable fuels.

Previously, Walther held several energy-related policy positions in Washington, including deputy director for energy at Third Way, a group that works to promote moderate policies.

He has expertise in the Renewable Fuel Standard and biofuels, oil and gas production, gasoline prices and the power sector, Poet said.

The Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Poet has a production capacity in excess of 1.6 billion gallons of ethanol and 9 billion pounds of high-protein animal feed annually from its network of 27 production facilities.

The ethanol industry has been in a bitter war with oil producers, the restaurant industry and others over the country’s renewable energy future. Critics of the Renewable Fuel Standard, an eight-year-old law that requires refiners to produce alternative fuels, have called for the mandate to be curtailed or abolished.

Washington lawmakers also have introduced legislation that would cap the amount of ethanol blended into motor fuel at 10 percent. While most fuel sold contains 10 percent ethanol, a handful of stations sell 15 percent ethanol, which can be used in newer vehicles.