Iowa Public Television


Ethanol Promoters Fight Against Oil Company BioFuels Bias

posted on June 6, 2008

U.S. ethanol producers could be facing increased competition if two coastal state lawmakers have their way. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire introduced a measure that would reduce the tariff on imported ethanol by nine cents per gallon.

Currently, the U.S. imposes a 54 cent per gallon tariff on ethanol imports. If passed, the bipartisan legislation would not allow the ethanol tariff to surpass domestic ethanol subsidies. The recently enacted Farm Bill reduced the ethanol blenders credit from 51 cents to 45 cents per gallon.

The move is just the latest assault on the once glorified, but increasingly vilified U.S. ethanol industry.

This week though, biofuels proponents fought back, claiming the "magic" of Big Oil is responsible for "levitating" food prices.

Ethanol Promoters Fight Against Oil Company BioFuels Bias Craig Floss,CEO, Iowa Corn Growers Association: "Big oil doesn't like to lose fuel markets to corn growers or to ethanol. And it doesn't like to be held accountable for windfall profits either. So there's an effort, basically to find a scapegoat and the scapegoat, folks, is the Iowa corn farmer. But we're not going to take that."

Saying they are being unjustly blamed for high food prices, members of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, and the Iowa Corn Growers Association, fought back on Thursday at an ethanol promotion rally in Iowa's capitol city of Des Moines. Before demonstrating how ethanol saves money, the group staged a magic show playing-up how money has been taken from the consumer's pocket-book through what was called "big oil's black magic."

Craig Floss,CEO, Iowa Corn Growers Association: "We have study after study after study that actually shows how biofuels is saving. And do we have actual proof that oil companies are behind what's going on? No, but we all know that all these campaigns that are happening, we know the grocery manufacturers, for example, have a $15 million campaign.... We know that clearly, when you see the comments from oil company CEOs and what their national organizations are doing we know that they are very much against biofuels."

David Smitherman, consultant, American Petroleum Institute: "I say it's "BS." My members -- nobody sells more biofuels than the very people I represent. We're the suppliers. We're the retailers. It's through us that this fuel gets to the marketplace."

David Smitherman is an Iowa-based consultant with the American Petroleum Institute.

David Smitherman, consultant, American Petroleum Institute:"Our philosophy, here in Iowa at least in the last legislative session, if we all work together, and there are days when I thought we were, we can develop some programs that may help in Iowa because it's going to take everybody, renewable fuels of all kinds, oil and natural gas, it's gonna play a big role in our energy needs. We can't be fighting amongst ourselves. We've got to work together to help every Iowan at this time."

Despite the rhetoric or the record, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association accuses oil companies of working to down-play ethanol's benefits including a savings of $1000 on the average gasoline bill. They say the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Petroleum Refiners Association, or N-P-R-A, have been beating the drum for ethanol reduction.

Monte Shaw, Executive Director, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association: "...recently, we have found where documents have been exposed that shows the Grocery Manufacturers of America have been out in front. We know that some of the big oil groups, the NPRA, has been testifying in DC raising all the same accusations, using exactly the same talking points. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is a coordinated attack to blame us."

Tags: biofuels ethanol news oil renewable fuels