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Ethanol questions for the energy debate

The emerging field of Republicans seeking the presidency will debate tonight in New Hampshire with the topic of ethanol likely on the agenda.

The emerging field of Republicans seeking the presidency will debate tonight in New Hampshire with the topic of ethanol likely on the agenda. Simultaneously, anti-ethanol voices in the Senate are pushing to end investments in renewable fuels under the guise of budgetary responsibility. Also, pro-oil and environmental lobbyists are spending millions of dollars on a smear campaign against ethanol in Washington, New Hampshire, and around the county.

The mud-slinging by some special interests and the flood of misinformation being propagated about ethanol aside, the focus on ethanol at this point in time provides an opportunity for a much more comprehensive and adult conversation about America’s energy future – beyond “Drill, baby, drill.”

“America desperately needs a thoughtful, comprehensive and realistic energy strategy that fully appreciates and incents the use of domestically produced renewable fuels like ethanol,” said Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen. “Ethanol is the only viable alternative to imported oil available to us today, an inconvenient truth for those seeking to protect the oil status quo. It is reducing oil imports by more than the total amount we get from Saudi Arabia each year. Domestic ethanol production and use helps support 400,000 American jobs, creates more than $50 billion in domestic economic activity, and helps to improve the trade imbalance America has with much of the rest of the world, and particularly the nations of OPEC.”

Given the focus ethanol is providing on the need for tough budget truths and a truly national energy policy, the RFA is proposing some questions for consideration at tonight’s Republican presidential debate. These questions, however, would be applicable to members of Congress, particularly Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and others, who would seek to end America’s renewable fuels industry and keep America addicted to OPEC oil imports.

• With the unrest in the Middle East heightened by the protests of the Arab Spring, shouldn’t the United States be more motivated than ever to gain energy independence? In a time of tough financial decisions, doesn’t the long term gain in economic strength, national security, and self-reliance offered by ethanol and other alternatives merit continued investment?

• As spiking oil and gas prices are driving up the cost of everything from summer vacations to the cost of doing business to food prices, what is your plan to provide relief in the near future? Keep in mind that new domestic drilling may not provide relief for at least a decade.

• Budget concerns are high on the minds of voters. In the energy sector, the largest recipient of government subsidies and special tax treatment is the oil industry. Is the $18 billion of direct government support to the oil industry also on the table for budget cuts? (Important note: The ethanol industry has proposed and supported tax reform to current ethanol policy that would dramatically reduce the cost of the ethanol tax incentive.)

• Job creation remains the biggest issue for many voters. Ethanol production helps support 400,000 jobs. These are quality jobs that can’t be outsourced, largely in economically challenged rural areas, that are producing an answer to American energy self-reliance. How important are these job to your economic and energy plans?

• America’s success has long been built on innovation. Do you believe investing in the innovation of American ethanol production, as well as other renewable alternatives, could help revitalize America's position as an economic powerhouse and political leader?

• The production of oil and gas resources is becoming increasingly environmentally destructive. Activities like fracking, for both oil and gas, are on the rise and creating concerns around the country. How important are renewable energy strategies in our nation’s overall energy agenda?

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