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Iowa: President makes no mention of ethanol

Source:  Copyright 2009, Des Moines Register
Date:  April 23, 2009
Byline:  Dan Piller
Original URL: Status DEAD

President Barack Obama's speech at Newton on Wednesday was especially noteworthy for its lack of reference to ethanol. It was one of the rare times in recent history that a president or national politician has spoken in Iowa and didn't mention the biofuel by name, especially as Iowa leads the nation in ethanol production.

Iowa has 41 ethanol plants up and running or under construction, but ethanol producers have struggled of late with declining corn prices and drops in the price of ethanol.

Obama's call for spending on renewable energy development may be a net positive for Iowa, but ethanol interests may have hoped the president would have focused on the biofuels as much as on wind power.

The ethanol industry has been pushing for the expansion of the allowable blend of ethanol with unleaded gasoline for conventional automobile engines from the current 10 percent to 15 percent.

But Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said he wasn't upset that the issue wasn't mentioned.

"Frankly, the Environmental Protection Agency (which will make the E-15 decision) gets sued all the time, and one of the things they're hit with is that their decisions might be based on politics rather than technology or science," Shaw said.

"So it is probably better for us that the president not mention E-15 today," Shaw continued. "The science is on our side. But we don't need people challenging the EPA later, after they make a favorable decision on E-15, saying that it was based on politics and using the president's remarks as evidence."

Shaw also said he is unsure whether the cap and trade scheme to control carbon emissions - which Obama boosted Wednesday at Newton - would be in the best interests of the ethanol industry.

He noted that California environmental agencies are expected to rule later this week that ethanol is a carbon-producer and try to impose limits on its use in the state.

"It's one of those things where the devil is in the details," Shaw said. "There is a lot of anti-row crop sentiment out there now. Everybody loves cellulosic ethanol or fuel made from anything other than corn. They don't realize, of course, that the grasses or corn stalks come from fields where food can be grown."

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