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Media Has It Wrong About Ethanol And Iowa Caucuses

Media Has It Wrong About Ethanol And Iowa Caucuses

Walt Wendland, president of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, says recent news articles fail to understand the role ethanol policy plays in Iowa today.

The Associated Press released an article June 9 discussing the role of ethanol in the upcoming Iowa caucuses. Iowa's first in the nation caucuses, scheduled to take place February 6, 2012, are an important part of the process that will help determine who will be elected the next president of the United States.

There have also been several other widely quoted news articles recently that fail to understand the role ethanol policy plays in Iowa today, says Walt Wendland, president of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

In response, Wendland issued the following statement on June 9:

"Following Gov. Pawlenty's remarks on ethanol there were several news articles suggesting his call to phase out the ethanol blenders tax incentive was either 'bold' or 'risky.'  These stories operated under the assumption that support for the current ethanol incentive is a political litmus test in Iowa. They were wrong.

"Ethanol policy has evolved over the last four to eight years. Support for a status quo ethanol blenders tax incentive is no longer synonymous with support for ethanol, as is evidenced by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley's legislation to phase down and reform the ethanol incentive.

"Yet now the media pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.  Stories now suggest that supporting ethanol is no longer important in Iowa. They suggest ethanol is a second tier issue behind the economy and jobs and opponents of ethanol have nothing to fear in Iowa. They are wrong as well.

Ethanol still a very important issue for Iowa's economy and voters

"No single issue is a litmus test for every Iowa caucus-goer. But in Iowa a strong ethanol industry is synonymous with job creation and a strong economy. A candidate who refuses to appreciate the positive economic and national security impact of ethanol will find tough going in Iowa.

"People in Iowa, whether they are residents or those who are campaigning for president, can support both ethanol and support reforming the ethanol tax credit.  Iowans favor a level playing field for fuels. That means discussing the ethanol incentive at the same time we discuss the $18 to $50 billion in yearly incentives for the petroleum industry. That means discussing reform of the ethanol incentive at the same time we discuss how to break the petroleum monopoly in America and provide consumers with true access to ethanol blends.

Not looking for special treatment for ethanol, just fair treatment

"A comprehensive review of U.S. energy policy might not fit on a bumper sticker and might be too complex for a typical news article.  But that is the reality in Iowa.  Iowans are not looking for special treatment for ethanol, but they are looking for fair treatment. The candidate who understands this truth will have a sympathetic audience in Iowa. The candidate who can't get past a bumper sticker slogan will face an uphill climb because Iowans expect – and deserve – better from those seeking election to the highest office in the land."

Wendland notes that former president George W. Bush won the 2000 Iowa Caucuses and carried Iowa in the 2004 general election. President Barack Obama won the 2008 Iowa Caucuses and carried Iowa in the 2008 general election. Interestingly, neither won the New Hampshire primary.

Walt Wendland is the CEO of Golden Grain Energy, an ethanol plant near Mason City and is also CEO of Homeland Energy Solutions an ethanol plant at Lawler, Iowa. He is currently serving his second term as President of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association was formed in 2002 to represent the state's liquid renewable fuels industry. The trade group fosters the development and growth of the renewable fuels industry in Iowa through education, promotion, legislation and infrastructure development.

Also last week IRFA president Walt Wendland issued a statement on former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman's ethanol remarks.

Jon Huntsman, former ambassador to China and potential presidential candidate, recently stated that he would not compete in the Iowa Caucuses because, "I don't believe in subsidies that prop up corn, soybeans and ethanol…I guess I understand how the politics work there."

IRFA President Walt Wendland issued the following statement:

"Ambassador Huntsman has only been back in the U.S for five weeks after serving our country for two years halfway around the world in China. A lot has changed during those two years, and his perception of Iowa and current ethanol and energy policy is woefully out of date. Thus, we want to invite Ambassador Huntsman to Iowa so he can learn how politics and policy actually work here.

"What Ambassador Huntsman will find is that Iowans want a sensible and fair energy policy. We're willing to discuss ethanol programs if petroleum programs are also part of the debate. Iowans want consumers to be able to make real fueling choices. Any candidate who supports a level playing field with true market access can do just fine in Iowa. I hope Ambassador Huntsman rethinks his decision to skip Iowa.  Iowa has been listed as one of the eight swing states that will determine the next president. Any candidate who skips Iowa now is not likely to do well in Iowa later."

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