Where do Iowa Candidates Stand on the RFS?

Americans United For Change want Iowans to know where their candidates for U.S. Senate stand: with Iowa farmers or Big Oil. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), legislation that mandates the U.S. transportation sector blend 36 billion gallons of alternative fuels into our fuel by 2022. With more than 30,000 comments sent to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on their proposed 2014 required volume obligations, aka, how many gallons of biofuels will be blended into fuel in 2014, there has still been no word on the final 2014 rule out of D.C.

In Iowa, primary elections took place last week and newly nominated Republican Joni Ernst, who currently serves as an Iowa Legislator, has not taken a firm stand on the RFS. According to Americans United for Change, she claims to be pro-RFS but often in the same breath admits she is “philosophically opposed” to all subsidies and that she “want[s] people to choose products that work for them and not have them mandated by the United States government.”

Americans United for Change Des Moines Register pro-RFS adToday, Americans Unite for Change, in an effort to get a straight answer, has taken out a full page ad in the Des Moines Register and Cedar Rapids Gazette that asks the questions whether the tens of thousands of dollars Ernst’s campaign has already taken from the billionaire oilmen Koch Brothers is the reason why she is so hesitant to go to the mat for renewable fuels. The biofuels industry accounts for $5.5 billion of Iowa Gross Domestic Product (GDP, generates $4 billion of income for Iowa households, and supports 60,000 jobs throughout the state.

Jeremy Funk, Comm. Dir., Americans United for Change, said of the ad, “As the candidates from opposing parties interview to be the next Senator from Iowa, there are many issues like raising the minimum wage that will present a clear contrast for voters. The Renewable Fuel Standard should not be one of those issues in the state that leads the nation in renewable fuel production with 41 ethanol plants and 18 biodiesel plants.”

“And yet,” continued Funk, “Tea Party-favorite Joni Ernst is going out of her way to complicate the simple and flip-flopping all around the issue. Talking out both sides of the mouth is something we’ve come to expect from politicians, just not politicians from Iowa on the issue of supporting renewable fuels. A strong and clear voice of support for ethanol and biodiesel is needed now more than ever in Washington with Big Oil spending millions of dollars to try to put out of business their cheaper, cleaner competition so they can gouge consumers at the pump with impunity.”

But it seems the more money Joni Ernst’s campaign rakes in from big oil interests like the billionaire Koch Brothers, the weaker and murkier her position becomes.” Funk concluded, “You can tell a lot about how a politician would actually govern by the friends they keep.”

Iowa U.S. Senate Candidates Support Biofuels

ia-rfaConsidering the state’s significant role in biofuels and renewable energy, there’s little surprise that primary candidates for the Iowa U.S. Senate seat are expressing their support of the green fuels. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says its 2014 Iowa U.S. Senate Primary Candidate Renewable Fuels Survey shows there’s strong, bipartisan support for renewable fuels among the state’s top candidates.

The full results and responses from candidates U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, Sam Clovis, state Sen. Joni Ernst, and Mark Jacobs can be found here: http://www.iowarfa.org/2014IRFACandidateSurveys.php. Matt Whitaker informed IRFA he would not be returning the survey.

“Literally tens of thousands of Iowans are invested in or directly employed by the renewable fuels industry, and they deserve to know where the candidates stand on these important issues,” stated IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “It’s great to see every candidate who responded showed strong support for ethanol and biodiesel, demonstrating renewable fuels issues are important to Iowa’s future.”

In December, the IRFA held an Iowa GOP U.S. Senate Primary Candidate Renewable Fuels Forum where candidates Sam Clovis and Mark Jacobs answered questions on specific renewable fuels issues. Video of that forum is available here.

Obama’s Proposed Biodiesel Cuts Could Cost Dems

showsDemocrats looking to make gains on the Republican majority in the U.S. House and hold back any possible GOP takeover in the Senate in the 2014 elections could be hurt by the Obama Administration’s proposal to cut the amount of biodiesel in the Nation’s fuel supply. And that criticism is coming from one of the Democratic Party’s own. This opinion piece in Roll Call from former Mississippi Democratic congressman Ronnie Shows, says the proposal is likely to hurt fellow Democrats in some important states.

The biodiesel announcement was puzzling because the president has stated for years that advanced biofuels, such as biodiesel, are a critical component of this nation’s fuel supply. Throughout his presidency and even on the campaign trail, Obama has made his support of advanced biofuels a hallmark of his administration’s efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil…

But despite the president’s recent support of biodiesel, as you read this, the EPA, which determines the number of gallons of biofuels federally required in the nation’s fuel supply, is soliciting comments on a proposal to reduce the amount of biodiesel sold every year in the United States by hundreds of millions of gallons.

Why the Obama administration is doing this to biodiesel is unclear, but I suspect the White House is planning to deny the Keystone XL pipeline — and offer Big Oil a consolation prize by cutting competition from renewable fuels, even advanced renewables such as biodiesel.

Shows goes on to say that the biodiesel proposal really hurts Democrats in key battleground states, such as North Carolina and Iowa. He concludes that the Administration’s lack of decisiveness on biodiesel could play into the hands of Republicans who accuse the White House of being “rudderless.”

Election Insight 2012

An “Election Insight 2012” report was issued shortly following the elections on November 7, 2012 by SNR Denton, and provides interesting insights into what political issues will take the forefront in the next four years. The report highlights winners and losers both at the federal and local levels as well as provides a short list of who could take over several key appointed positions. It also gives a top level discussion of what key issues will be addressed during the upcoming lame duck session, as well as over the next four years.

Of interest to our readers is the overview of several areas: renewable energy, environment and the tax extenders package. Here is a samling of the highlights:

  • The 112th Congress returns for a lame duck session beginning next week and the major topic of discussion will be the combination of expiring tax provisions and across-the-board spending cuts (sequestration) including discussion of retroactive extension of expired provisions including research and development tax credit, the production tax credit for wind energy, and other “tax extenders”.
  • Several major policy areas that will be on the agenda for the next Congress: debate on the future of American energy; and job creation and economic growth. The issues above are forecast to become part of the broader debate over the economy.
  • The energy sector also will draw attention in the context of tax reform, with debate continuing on tax policy affecting both oil and gas companies and renewable generators.
  • President Obama’s corporate tax reform plan calls for a lowering of the corporate tax rate from 35%to 28%, and reducing the manufacturing income rate to 25%. To pay for these proposals, the president would eliminate several business tax breaks, most notably subsidies for oil companies.
  • Obama’s plan would make the Research and Development (R&D) tax credit permanent and the tax credit for renewable electricity production permanent.
  • Obama’s plan would require companies to pay minimum tax on overseas profits and remove tax deductions for moving production overseas, while giving a 20% income tax credit for the expenses of moving back to the U.S.
  • The next terms will bring continued debate on the future development of American energy resources,  Continue reading

Agri-Pulse Poll Favors Romney and RFS

A new poll of farmers and ranchers out today finds that a vast majority say they will vote Romney for president and believe continuation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is important.

According to the Agri-Pulse Farm and Rural Poll, 78 percent of farmers polled are voting for Mitt Romney in the presidential election, and 76% said continuation of the RFS is very or somewhat important to the future profitability of agriculture in the U.S. Only 12 percent indicated the RFS was “not very important” or “not at all important,” while 12 percent said they are “not sure.” Significantly, half of those surveyed who raise only livestock answered that continuing the RFS is “very important.”

On November 1, 2012, Pulse Opinion Research conducted a telephone survey of 319 farmers and ranchers who are likely voters. Questions covered the presidential election, farm bill priorities, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s job performance rating, the Renewable Fuels Standard, and other topics.

The telephone survey found that 71 percent of respondents strongly disapprove of President Obama’s job performance while 12 percent strongly approve. Of all farmers polled, 51 percent labeled themselves Republican, 26 percent Democrat.

Poll results available here.

Soybean Association Asks Candidates About Biodiesel

As I noted in the most recent Domestic Fuel Cast, neither President Barack Obama or former Governor Mitt Romney get too specific when talking about renewable energy (ethanol was mentioned just once by name during their three debates in October, and biodiesel seemed to be just about as absent). But that doesn’t mean they won’t mention these things when directly asked. So, the American Soybean Association decided to pose the question directly to them about the renewable energy source most near and dear to its heart, biodiesel.

Pointing out the rising cost of foreign oil, monetarily and national security-wise, and the fact that biodiesel, made from soybeans reduces the need for oil while also producing animal feedstock and putting more Americans back to work in biodiesel refineries, the ASA asked each candidate: How would your administration protect the ability of the biodiesel industry to remain viable?

President Obama: We must invest in a clean energy economy that will lead to new jobs, new businesses, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I recently announced a new goal of cutting oil imports in half by the end of the decade. Developing the next generation of biofuels will help us achieve this goal, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil will help create millions of new jobs that can’t be outsourced. We are already making progress. U.S. biofuel production is at its highest level in history. Last year, rural America produced enough renewable fuels to meet roughly 8 percent of our needs, helping us increase our energy independence to its highest level in 20 years. And a higher renewable fuel standard is boosting an industry that supports 39,000 jobs and ensuring its continued growth.

Governor Romney: I have a plan to achieve North American energy independence by 2020, and biofuels will play a role in enabling us to achieve that goal. I believe that all of our energy resources are and should continue to be a source of long-term competitive advantage for ournation. My policies broadly aim to ensure that all of our energy industries can sustainably become competitive, innovative and efficient. I support biofuels, as well as the RFS and would seek to eliminate the regulatory barriers to a diversification of our fuel system.

Read the rest of their responses to other questions ASA posed here.

Farm Foundation to Discuss Farm Policy Post-Election

While all elections are important, this year’s promises to have some real implications for rural America. That’s why Farm Foundation is holding a forum about a week after the polls close, and we know WHO is in office to explain WHAT they might do as as far as agriculture, food and rural policy, including renewable energy, is concerned. The forum will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. EST at the National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, Washington D.C.

And for the first time a free live, webcast of the forum will be offered. You can see the webcast by registering here. Email julie@farmfoundation.org by Nov. 12th if you plan to attend in person.

“By their votes on Nov. 6, citizens will set the stage for the next four years of the nation’s policy development at both the state and federal level,” says Foundation President Neil Conklin. “This Forum is an opportunity to examine how those elections may specifically impact agriculture, food and rural policies in the months ahead.”

DF Cast: Candidates Debate Domestic Fuels

It’s less than a week before election day, and President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney are vying for every vote they can, including those people interested in energy issues in this country.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we hear from Obama and Romney as they made their pitches about their domestic energy policies during the debates they held in October. A little talk about wind… a little talk about biofuels (with just one small utterance of the word ethanol)… and a LOT to say about petroleum and coal. It’s for you to hear and make your decision… and for all of us to see what talk actually becomes action once the shouting is all over.

You can listen to the Domestic Fuel Cast here: Domestic Fuel Cast - Candidates on Energy

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

Obama Campaign “Energy Tour” at Juhl Wind Today

The Obama Campaign “Energy Tour” will be blowing into Woodstock, Minnesota today for a press conference at the headquarters of Juhl Wind, Inc.

Former Minnesota state representative Matthew Entenza will join company representatives to discuss the importance of the extension of the Renewable Energy Federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) and President Obama’s support of the clean energy sector.

“In my over 25 years in the energy business, I have never seen a more balanced approach to our nation’s energy strategy than the Obama administration’s,” said John Mitola, President of Juhl Wind. “We are very pleased to welcome Mr. Entenza to the Juhl Wind headquarters to further underscore the need for continued support of Renewable Energy, a critical component of our domestic renewable energy policy and a creator of new domestic job opportunities. We are proud of President Obama’s strong ongoing support of the Renewable Energy industry and the need to continue to invest in our clean energy future. For anyone to solely attack the Renewable Energy PTC as a subsidy, they are simply ignoring the hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies that have been provided to the nuclear, coal, gas and oil industries for decades and continue to this today – and, seemingly are never questioned.”

Mitola referenced the most recent American Wind Energy Association report that says 2012 has been a record year for the development of wind power within the United States, surpassing 50,000 megawatts of electrical power generation capacity, with a total of 4,728 megawatts added this year alone and another 8,430 megawatts in active development throughout 29 states and Puerto Rico.

IRFA Gets Words of Support From Romney

Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) members grabbed the ear of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for a moment Tuesday and got him to say “I do” – support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and ethanol, that is.

After listening to Governor Romney speak at an Iowa farm, IRFA President Brad Albin with the Renewable Energy Group (REG) and past president Walt Wendland of Golden Grain Energy had a chance to visit briefly with the candidate while shaking hands and thank him for supporting the RFS. Romney responded, “I do support the RFS and ethanol.”

Romney spoke to a crowd of more than 1,000 supporters at the Koch family farm in Van Meter, Iowa on Tuesday to highlight his farm policy initiatives, which include renewable energy. The energy independence section of the candidate’s agriculture white paper notes that “Romney recognizes that biofuels are crucial to America’s energy future and to achieving his goal of energy independence, and he supports maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard to guarantee producers the market access they have been promised as they continue to move forward.”

IRFA documented Romney’s “I do” on video – watch it here:

Romney Rural Policy Includes Renewable Energy

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stressed his commitment to energy independence in an agricultural policy white paper released on Tuesday.

Governor Romney’s agenda for energy independence includes maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), “fulfilling the federal government’s commitment to biofuels growers and refiners and providing them the certainty they need to followthrough on their investments in promising technologies.”

“We applaud Governor Romney’s continuing support of domestic renewable fuels and his recognition of the importance of the RFS,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “We also appreciate Governor Romney’s business acumen when it comes to the importance of certainty to investors in the next generation of biofuels.”

Jim Nussle President and Chief Operating Officer of Growth Energy, says they are pleased to see Romney make maintaining the RFS a key component of his campaign. “This plan signals to investors and producers that America’s commitment to reducing our dependence on foreign oil and creating jobs that revitalize rural America remain a top priority for a candidate seeking the office of the Presidency,” said Nussle. “Governor Romney understands that when it comes to energy security and domestic energy development, continued dependency on foreign sources is not acceptable.”

The Romney white paper included “did you know?” information about ethanol such as “The Production Of Ethanol Has Created Economic Prosperity For U.S. Farmers” and “Ethanol Has Become And Continues To Be An Important Presence In Rural Iowa.” The release of Romney’s rural policy paper coincided with his appearance Tuesday at an Iowa farm.

Read the entire Romney Agriculture White Paper.

Renewable Energy in the Debate

Increasing America’s energy independence came up quickly in the presidential debate last night and it showed some similarities and some clear differences between the candidates.

“I think it’s important for us to develop new sources of energy here in America,” President Obama said in his opening remarks. Governor Romney followed up by putting energy first in his five part plan to help the economy. “One, get us energy independent, North American energy independent. That creates about 4 million jobs,” he said.

President Obama noted that he and Romney agree on the need to boost American energy production and that domestic oil and natural gas production have increased in recent years. “But I also believe that we’ve got to look at the energy sources of the future, like wind and solar and biofuels, and make those investments,” the president said. Romney stressed the need for more oil and natural gas development on government land and support for clean coal. “I like coal,” said Romney.

When the issue of corporate taxes came up, Obama charged that the oil industry gets too many tax breaks. “The oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare,” said Obama. “Now, does anybody think that ExxonMobil needs some extra money, when they’re making money every time you go to the pump?”

Romney countered that Obama has given “green energy” projects more tax breaks that oil. “Now, I like green energy as well,” said Romney. “You put $90 billion, like 50 years’ worth of breaks, into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tesla and Ener1. I had a friend who said you don’t just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right? So this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy secure.”

Those comments scored no points for Romney with the Truman National Security Project. “Mitt Romney’s energy plan ignores the advice of our military leaders and doubles down on oil – even as we send a billion dollars a day overseas for it,” said Truman Project spokesman David Solimini. “Thankfully, today we import less oil than we have in 20 years and we’re investing in manufacturing jobs on things like wind turbines.”

Presidential Candidates Support RFS

Both President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney say they support maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard in answers to an American Farm Bureau Federation questionnaire on agricultural issues.

“Our rural communities, farmers, and ranchers can increase our energy independence and boost the transition to a clean energy economy,” Obama responded to a question about energy security and agriculture. “U.S. biofuel production is at its highest level in history. Last year, rural America produced enough renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel to meet roughly 8 percent of our needs, helping us increase our energy independence to its highest level in 20 years. We are increasing the level of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline, and the new Renewable Fuel Standard helped boost biodiesel production to nearly 1 billion gallons in 2011, supporting 39,000 jobs.”

Governor Romney said in his answer that developing our nation’s energy resources is key to the success of the agriculture industry. “The increased production of biofuels plays an important part in my plan to achieve energy independence,” said Romney. “In order to support increased market penetration and competition among energy sources, I am in favor of maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard. I also support eliminating regulatory barriers to a diversification of the electrical grid, fuel system, and vehicle fleet. My policies broadly aim to ensure that all of our energy industries can sustainably become competitive, innovative and efficient.”

Read all the AFBF questions and candidate responses.

Renewable Energy Part of Obama Acceptance

Renewable energy was part of President Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday night as the Democratic nominee for 2012.

“We have doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries,” Obama said to applause. “In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by 1 million barrels a day, more than any administration in recent history. And today the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last two decades.”

“We’re offering a better path where we — a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal, where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks, where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy, where — where we develop a hundred-year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet,” he continued.

The president’s acceptance speech added to comments Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made the night before at the Democratic National Convention, noting that the Obama administration has made “smart investments in clean energy—wind, solar, biofuels as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy that supports thousands of jobs, not in the Middle East, but in the Midwest.”

Vilsack Talks Biofuels at DNC

Delegates gathered to nominate Pres. Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC heard from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who pointed to his boss’ commitment to biofuels and rural America. “President Obama has a detailed plan for a new rural economy,” Vilsack told the delegates. “More support for small businesses making, creating and innovating. More investment in biofuels and other biomaterials. And more trade and more markets.”

Vilsack said rural Americans want someone who will help the middle class and that Obama and running mate Vice President Joe Biden are the ones to keep things moving forward.

In a recent ZimmPoll, Obama and Biden’s challengers, Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan seem to be holding a small lead in a close race, with 42 percent choosing Romney/Ryan and 35 percent going for Obama/Biden. But nearly a quarter of respondents say we need a better choice.

Hear Vilsack’s remarks here: Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack at DNC