The GOP stunned corn growers and the corn-based ethanol industry after adopting new official Republican platform language calling for free market utilization of ethanol rather than the federally mandated Renewable Fuels Standard supported by Bush administration and crop producers in the rural heartland.
Specifically on ethanol, the policy states, "The U.S. government should end mandates for ethanol and let the free market work." The GOP platform also stated, "We must continue to develop alternative fuels, such as biofuels, especially cellulosic ethanol, and hasten their technological advances to next-generation production." The position marks a major change from the 2004 platform, which supported expanding the use of ethanol as a way to reduce dependence on foreign oil and increase revenues for farmers.
Major livestock industry organizations played a significant role in putting pressure on Republican leaders to include the position in the new platform according to Jerry Kozak, president of National Milk Producers Federation. Beef, dairy, pork and poultry producers have seen prices soar as demand for ethanol has increased.
The Renewable Fuels Association said "it is inconceivable that the Republican Party would adopt a platform that limits the energy options available to the American people. Ethanol is the only technology in use today helping reduce our nation's reliance on foreign oil."
One industry observer noted that while the GOP position is unwelcome to the ethanol industry, it might be without much political risk to Republican nominee Sen. John McCain's campaign since current ethanol usage exceeds the federal mandate and is likely to surpass it in the future. McCain's longstanding opposition to ethanol will be highlighted by the platform position and will help cement the view that he is a maverick willing to challenge issues important to rural voters.
The new policy also states to meet global demand for food and biofuels, farmers much have the technology to grow more with fewer inputs and said USDA must remain the international leader in agricultural research.