Will Indiana vote hurt ethanol?

Source: DANIEL LOOKER, Agriculture.com • Posted: Friday, May 11, 2012

The historic upset of Senator Dick Lugar by Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock in Tuesday’s Republican primary in that state may affect ethanol.

At least that’s the view of Senator Tom Harkin, who like Lugar, is a past chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Harkin, noting that Mourdock takes a dim view of compromise with Democrats, told reporters Thursday that “his approach is not one that’s going to be helpful to ethanol.”

Harkin has his own perspective, of course, both as a Democrat and as one of Iowa’s two senators from both parties who have a long history of supporting the corn-based industry.

In the past, Lugar co-sponsored bills with Harkin to provide infrastructure that would make it easier for ethanol to reach consumers, with proposed financial support for installing blender pumps, allowing federal guarantees for loans on ethanol pipelines, and mandating more flexible fuel vehicles from car makers.

In Harkin’s latest version of the bill (which hasn’t been passed) Lugar’s cosponsorship was missing.

The veteran Indiana lawmaker’s willingness to compromise with Democrats on some legislation was viewed dimly by some Indiana Republicans.

During the campaign, Mourdock disagreed with Lugar on support for ethanol mandates.

“It’s not going to be good, especially if he gets on the Agriculture Committee,” Harkin said. “Will he evolve? Will he change his views? I don’t know.”

Thursday, a spokesman for Mourdoch said that the Republican senatorial candidate isn’t against alternative energy.

“Richard Mourdock does not oppose the use of alternative, renewable energy, such as ethanol, biodiesel, wind or solar, which can reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil.” said Mourdock spokesman Christopher Conner in an email message to Agriculture.com.

“Mourdock opposes federal subsidies and mandates, which are contrary to free market principles. The efficacy of alternative energy should be dictated by the market, Allowing consumers to have a choice and the market to determine the success of a product provides the best opportunity for long term success.”

During the only debate between Mourdock and Lugar, in April, the two candidates sparred over ethanol.

Mourdock argued that the mandate to blend ethanol into gasoline was keeping gas prices four to five cents a gallon higher than they would be otherwise, while Lugar said that ethanol blending is bringing the price down and creating jobs and good corn prices in the state.

In many other areas of energy policy, such as the effects of EPA regulations on oil refineries, the candidates seemed to agree. They got into energy policy early on, in this video that is still posted online.

Shortly after the debate, Indiana Farm Bureau president Don Villwock corrected Mourdock’s assertion that ethanol raises gasoline prices.

“On one topic during their debate this week, the difference between Sen. Richard Lugar and his primary election opponent, Richard Mourdock, became crystal clear. In the case of renewable energy and national security, Lugar gets it and Mourdock doesn’t,” Villwock said in a press release. “Mr. Mourdock is flat-out wrong when he asserts that ethanol increases the price of gasoline. Ethanol currently saves consumers nearly a $1/gallon, and therefore Hoosiers benefit from ethanol every mile that they drive.”