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Renewable Fuel Groups: Ethanol Could Help Decide Iowa in 2016

During an event last week, two key advocacy groups in the ethanol space highlighted the role that renewable fuels could play in deciding Iowa during next year's presidential election. Candidates appear to be taking the hint.

During an event last week, two key advocacy groups in the ethanol space highlighted the role that renewable fuels could play in deciding Iowa during next year’s presidential election. Candidates appear to be taking the hint.

Some associations are just gearing up for their 2016 advocacy pushes, but the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) is already in third gear.

The association, based in a key caucus state that is expected to be in play for both parties next November, is letting politicians know that what might seem like niche issues in most states are a really big deal in Iowa—and saying that candidates who ignore renewable-fuel issues will be doing so at their own peril.

“I’m going to go so far as to say I don’t think that if your opponent is for the [Renewable Fuel Standard] in Iowa and you’re against it I don’t think you can win a statewide general election,” IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw said during a briefing last week in Washington, according to The Des Moines Register. “When you are dealing with 16 candidates, the RFS can be one of the two or three issues that are important enough that you take the 16 names and you get it down to two or three.”

America’s Renewable Future (ARF), an advocacy group on the same side as IRFA, agreed.

“A look at this election reveals top-tier candidates on both sides of the aisle articulating the importance of biofuels not only for rural economies, but as a key component of a national energy policy,” ARF Senior Adviser Derek Eadon said last week, reports The Daily Signal. “That is a clear sign that this will be a defining issue for the caucuses, but also for the general election.”

Getting candidates to support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), however, could be a big ask outside of Iowa. In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has pushed against the structure of the RFS, which requires a certain amount of renewable fuel be added to the fuel supply each year. The standard, which has been criticized as unrealistic since it was passed by Congress during the George W. Bush administration, suffered a setback last month after the EPA announced 2016 fuel standards that fall far short of the Congressional mandate.

And the fuel standard has become controversial for environmentalists, who see it as a failed policy, as well as for some conservatives, who believe that renewables should succeed on their own merits rather than through a legal requirement.

Nevertheless, it’s an issue particularly important to Iowa—something highlighted by IRFA research. According to the Register, the association found that 57 percent of likely voters surveyed in Iowa were less likely to support a candidate who opposed the standard; 72 percent responded positively to the standard.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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