Groups meet to better coordinate' policy strategy

By Holly Jessen | October 14, 2010
Posted Oct. 14, 2010

Rumors about private meetings between the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, the National Corn Growers Association and the American Coalition for Ethanol were confirmed Oct. 13 by Brian Jennings, executive vice president of ACE. "The groups have been meeting regularly to better coordinate our strategy on key policy issues," he said. "NCGA deserves much credit for their leadership and effort to bring everyone together."

Although details are sparse, Jennings confirmed that the groups have met multiple times to discuss policy priorities including the blenders' tax credit, blender pumps, flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) and E15. Jennings said one of those meetings included Peter Rouse, now interim White House chief of staff, who worked previously as chief of staff for former Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

Recently, a draft long-term policy road map put together by the four groups was leaked online. The document states that ACE, NCGA, Growth Energy and RFA all support extending the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit. Specifically, the draft calls for a one-year extension of VEETC "at the highest level possible," followed by reform. The next step, the document said, would be extending the tax incentive for no less than four years in a manner that:
1. Reduces VEETC from its current value of 45 cents to an unspecified future amount
2. Rewards investments in sustainable technologies and performance by providing an increase in the credit to producers that use technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Elimination of the import tariff on ethanol on Jan. 1, 2012, as long as there's a domestic ethanol producer incentive in place.

The draft also called for more FFVs and blender pumps, plus a combination of incentives to develop biofuel infrastructure. A loan guarantee program for ethanol pipelines should be established as well, the groups said.

The last two items on the draft were about indirect land use change (ILUC) and corn ethanol's status under the Renewable Fuels Standard. The groups said ILUC should be suspended until all fuels can be evaluated under the same scientific, transparent and reliable method. In addition, corn ethanol should be allowed to qualify as an advanced biofuel.

Tension between the groups was apparent this summer after Growth Energy announced its Fueling Freedom Plan, which called for changes to VEETC in exchange for broader funding for nationwide ethanol infrastructure. While Growth Energy said the time was ripe to discuss diverting some of that incentive money to support infrastructure and blender pumps and even eventually phasing the incentive out completely, RFA, ACE and NCGA banded together saying the timing was wrong. With so few days left on the Congressional calendar to extend VEETC, they said, it wasn't the right time to talk about changes to VEETC.

A significant sign of cooperation came Oct. 12, when the four groups released a joint statement. ACE, NCGA, RFA and Growth Energy issued a press release prior to a planned press conference held by typically anti-ethanol groups later that day.