Over a dozen candidates for U.S. president are barnstorming Iowa these days, trying to drum up favor among potential voters ahead of the 2016 caucus season. America's Renewable Future, a campaign urging presidential candidates to support renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, on August 10 released a list of Iowa elected officials who are calling on presidential candidates of both parties to support the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The bipartisan list includes office holders in city, county and state government throughout Iowa—elected officials who see renewable fuels as a top issue in the 2016 presidential caucuses.
America's Renewable Future (ARF) is a coalition seeking to educate candidates running for U.S. president in 2016 and visiting Iowa. ARF meets with the candidates and their staffs to explain the benefits of the Renewable Fuel Standard, asking each candidate to take a stand on the issue. ARF also educates Iowa caucus-goers in both parties about which candidates support the RFS. ARF is financed by a partnership including the Iowa Corn Growers Association, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy.
Iowa officials pledge to support Pro-RFS presidential candidates
To view the list of over 100 names of Iowa elected officials who say they will support presidential candidates who endorse the RFS, visit www.americasrenewablefuture.com. The list includes the offices they hold and counties or cities they represent in Iowa.
Along with that list, ARF released the following statement on August 10: "The RFS is a commonsense, bipartisan issue that infuses competition into the motor fuel market, lowers consumers' fuel prices at the pump, and strengthens rural communities. The 10-year-old policy bolsters the national and state economy supporting over 852,000 American jobs and 73,000 jobs across the state of Iowa."
ARF also says, "These elected leaders in Iowa know firsthand the benefits of the RFS, and of ethanol and biofuels, and they join supporters from every corner of the state in coming together to ensure that the RFS is protected." In addition to rolling out a list of powerful political endorsers, ARF is launching a paid media push celebrating the success of the RFS over the past 10 years with full-page newspaper and radio ads across Iowa.
Public comment period now closed, EPA to make final decision
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to reduce the amount of ethanol and biodiesel required to be blended into the nation's motor fuel supply through the RFS will hurt economic development, make America less energy secure and raise prices for all U.S. consumers, says Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. "EPA's proposal will also severely harm development of the next generation biofuels and goes against the intent of Congress," he adds.
The public comment period on EPA's proposal to lower the blending requirements for biofuels for the years 2014 through 2016 closed on July 27. The proposed volumes were first released in May. EPA is now evaluating the thousands and thousands of public comments and the agency is supposed to issue its final decision by the end of November 2015. EPA's proposal released in May did raise the volumes of ethanol required to be blended into the nation's gasoline supply from its original proposal in 2013. But EPA's new biofuel requirements are far short of what Congress called for when it passed the RFS in 2005 and 2007.
Standing up for ethanol, making sure grower voices are heard
Craig Floss, CEO of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, is troubled by the flawed reasoning EPA is using to justify the reduction in biofuel blending rates. EPA said it wants to reduce the biofuel requirements, in part, because of limitations on infrastructure and biofuel production capacity. The old food vs. fuel argument has also been used once again by the oil industry to argue against making more corn ethanol.
"There is not a supply limitation on feedstock," says Floss. "U.S. farmers can produce the corn for ethanol and the soybeans for biodiesel. And using the lack of infrastructure as an excuse for setting biofuel volume levels lower than originally mandated by Congress is not following the intent of the RFS law passed by Congress."
RFS turns 10; farmers, biofuel producers say "keep it strong"
August 8 marked the 10th anniversary of the Renewable Fuel Standard signed into law by President George W. Bush. "Since its inception, the RFS has affected local economies, benefitting farmers and producers across the country," says Richard Schwarck, president of Absolute Energy LLC, an ethanol plant at St. Ansgar in northeast Iowa. "In Iowa, the benefits are profound. The RFS generates more than 73,000 jobs for Iowans each year and $19.3 billion in annual economic output. And throughout the country, over 852,000 Americans are employed as a result of the RFS; a policy creating $184.5 billion in annual economic output for the U.S."
The law establishing the RFS, as originally intended, creates employment opportunities for Americans and furthers development of and investment in advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol. "As intended, the RFS helps to decrease our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, and promotes the production of and access to clean, secure, homegrown fuel. Over the past decade, the successes under the RFS have only grown and there is a lot of progress to celebrate," says Schwarck.
EPA's proposal to reduce the RFS would take U.S. backward
"But the EPA's recent proposal would only take us backward, allowing the oil industry to maintain its monopoly and drive-up foreign oil imports. The proposal threatens hundreds of thousands of American jobs and the very livelihoods of farmers in my community," he adds. "More than $13.7 billion in investment in the next generation of biofuels has already been frozen as a result of EPA's misfires and delays."
Through the RFS, farmers have helped grow the production and distribution of ethanol, and strengthened our local and national economies as a result, says Schwarck. "We can't afford to take a step backwards from the progress we've made over the past decade. Family farmers and rural communities are depending on a strong RFS."
Not too long ago, farmers faced a horrific economic downturn, he notes. Thanks to the RFS, they've been able to build back up their lives and create opportunities for economic growth and stability. Now EPA's proposal threatens to jeopardize this success. "We need to implement a strong RFS for this generation, and those to come," says Schwarck. "Let's hope EPA stops putting oil industry interests ahead of hardworking Americans, and listens to farmers nationwide who realize the tangible impact of the RFS on their lives. We need a strong RFS. America has a lot on the line."
Poet would stop its future investments in cellulosic ethanol
Poet LLC, the nation's leading ethanol maker, has flatly stated that it expects to stop all future U.S. investments in cellulosic biofuels if the EPA's proposal is enacted. The company last year opened its first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant at Emmetsburg in northwest Iowa.
In a letter to President Obama and EPA director Gina McCarthy, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and other state leaders said a robust RFS is needed to provide the federal policy predictability rural America needs to continue investments in renewable fuels. Those investments, "diversify our nation's energy portfolio, reduce transportation emissions, provide value-added opportunities to various bio-feedstocks, give consumers lower-cost choices at the fuel pump, and create good-paying jobs that empower rewarding careers."
Impact would hurt more than just farmers and biofuel producers
If EPA's currently proposed rule becomes final, the negative impact would be disproportionately felt by rural America, the letter said. "EPA's proposed rule and decision has already caused a ripple effect on agribusinesses, our communities and the entire economy. Despite Big Oil's attempt to pollute the public discourse, corn prices are approximately $3.50 per bushel today, down significantly from the 2012 drought levels of $8 per bushel." The negative impact of the proposed RFS reduction would hurt ag businesses, lenders and main street rural America, as well as farmers.
In closing his letter to EPA administrator McCarthy, ICGA president Jerry Mohr, a Scott County farmer, wrote: "On behalf of Iowa's corn farmers, we join our voices in opposition to EPA's proposed rule to lower the renewable volume obligations for ethanol and we encourage EPA to rethink the proposal and implement the statutory levels for corn based ethanol. Iowa's hard working farm families need nothing less."