Grassroots effort launched for VEETC 'yes' vote

By Kris Bevill | November 15, 2010
Posted Dec. 10, 2010

As soon as word was received that U.S. Senate draft legislation includes a one-year extension to the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, ethanol industry groups began work to convince U.S. House of Representatives members to leave the extension in a final bill. The Senate is expected to vote on its legislation the week of Dec. 13 and the House could vote as early as later that week.

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis expressed confidence that the measure will pass the Senate, cautioning that it's still difficult to foretell the outcome with any certainty. Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, said a procedural vote on the overall tax extension bill was held in the Senate late Dec. 9 and passed with 65 votes, indicating that the bill will indeed pass the Senate. "I would predict this passes the U.S. Senate early next week," he said.

The House, however, still presents a fairly significant challenge and that is where emphasis will be placed by the ethanol industry in the coming weeks. ACE reached out to its thousands of members early on Dec. 10, encouraging them to contact their respective legislators and encourage them to support the ethanol credit extensions. The group offers a link through its Legislative Action Center for supporters to express their support for the measure to members of Congress. "We're going to try and mobilize as much grassroots support as we can between now and whenever the Senate and House take this up," Jennings said. "We're going to be in touch with as many House offices as we can to educate them that the ethanol provisions were added, and that that's a better deal."

Growth Energy will also focus on educating House members on the facts behind ethanol production and its impact on the American economy. "I think our target is as many folks as we can reach in the available time, over and over again, to talk about the real issues here and what this means to rural America and our American economy," Buis said. "That's the debate we want to have."

Liberal Democrat members of the House will be the least likely to approve the tax extension package, mostly because they are opposed to other tax cuts unrelated to ethanol. Jennings believes the inclusion of ethanol incentives could help to convince them to support the bill. "I think in the end as it becomes clearer to those Democrats that this is the only way they can extend unemployment benefits and extend the tax credits for the middle class, and as they learn the deal has been improved through provisions like the ethanol tax credits, I think we'll eventually get to that critical mass we need," he said. Growth Energy will be in touch will "all" House representatives, Buis said. "We're going to be out there working and educating people," he added. "A lot of this debate over ethanol policy is based on misinformation. But when we explain the facts to people and to policymakers, they understand it. If this debate occurs on the real facts, we're confident we'll win."

It is unclear when the House might vote on the bill, but there is speculation a vote could occur by Dec. 17, pending a passage in the Senate prior to that date. And while a one-year extension is less than what was originally lobbied for by the ethanol industry, it is long enough to provide time to formulate a long-term reform strategy, industry members said. The Senate inclusion also sends a signal to the industry that ethanol remains supported by government leaders. "There was a hugely important political statement made when the tax incentives extension was included [in the Senate]," Jennings said. "It's a political message to all of those groups that have spent millions to try and demonize ethanol that they can attack ethanol all they want, but the White House and Congress still strongly support ethanol. They understand politically that if you add ethanol provisions to a bill, it's likely you'll attract votes to a bill. I think that lesson will be discovered in the House as well, eventually."