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Ethanol Group's Goal: Elect a Pro-RFS President

Globe Gazette

By Erin Murphy

October 14, 2015

The advocacy group America’s Renewable Future has been active on the caucus trail, attempting to generate support from candidates and voters for the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires a certain percentage of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply.

“It’s something that’s really important to our economy and to our future,” said Patty Judge, a former Iowa lieutenant governor and a co-chair of America’s Renewable Future.

Iowa produces nearly one-third of the nation’s ethanol and nearly half of Iowa’s corn goes into ethanol production, according to the Iowa Corn Growers Association.

Iowa’s renewable fuels industry, which includes biodiesel production, supports 47,000 jobs and accounts for $5 billion of the state’s gross domestic product, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

But Iowa’s ethanol industry could take a hit if the president lowers the fuel standard or joins Congress in repealing it.

Enter America’s Renewable Future, which is doing what it can to ensure the next president will support the standard.

“I think America’s Renewable Future has put together a very strong organization, and I’m really happy to lend a little time to it because I believe this is a critical issue, not just in a presidential election year but all the time for Iowa,” Judge said. “I’m very pleased at the strong organization that we’ve been able to put together and the fact that we have been able to work in a bipartisan way to push the question of the RFS to presidential candidates.”

The group is a coalition of companies, organizations and individuals who support the fuel standard. Its state chairman is Eric Branstad, the son of Gov. Terry Branstad. The co-chairwomen are Judge and Annette Sweeney, a former state legislator.

The group is informing and pressing presidential candidates while also talking to voters, encouraging them to support candidates who support the standard.

The group’s website, americasrenewablefuture.com, includes a section with candidates’ comments on the fuel standard.

The candidates’ support for the fuel standard vary from full throat to temporary blessing with an eventual phase-out, to repeal.

Polling front-runners Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, and Donald Trump, a Republican, have said they would support the fuel standard.

At the other end of the spectrum, Republican Ted Cruz wants to do away with it.

That frustrates Sweeney, a Republican, who said Cruz is being “really close-minded on this issue.”

Sweeney and Judge said some candidates have shown a willingness to soften their position on the fuel standard.

“We want to try to educate candidates, and it’s not surprising that many of them come into Iowa with almost no knowledge of the role of renewable fuels, particularly the role the RFS plays in maintaining that," Judge said. "So there’s a lot of education that has to go back to the candidates and the candidates’ staff members.

“This is not a mandate. It is not a subsidy. It is simply saying we have a market share here. This is an education process, and we’ll keep at it.”

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