Promoting our Policy Priorities

By Brian Jennings | May 12, 2011

The American Coalition for Ethanol is grateful for the opportunity to communicate with readers of Ethanol Producer Magazine through our new monthly column, Grassroots Voice.

For nearly 25 years, ACE’s mission has been to make American ethanol the consumer fuel of choice.  We’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with you to grow the industry and provide opportunities for farmers and ethanol producers to supply our nation with a domestic, reliable, and clean source of fuel.

Our members expect ACE to be team players and forge consensus within the industry and we believe our ability to bring people together is what sets us apart.  As a grassroots organization we provide a home for ethanol producers to join forces with farmers, researchers, investors, rural electric cooperatives and businesses that supply the ethanol industry.

With the help of this grassroots family, earlier this year ACE organized the largest-ever ethanol advocacy effort to occur in the nation’s Capitol. 

Over the course of two days, ACE members from 15 states met with more than 160 Members of Congress representing 44 states, including meetings with about half of the 100 freshmen members of Congress.

ACE organizes an annual Washington fly-in because no one is more qualified to promote our policy priorities than grassroots advocates.  As a professional lobbyist, I put my experience and expertise to work every day to promote ethanol before policymakers.  But an ethanol plant board member like Dave Sovereign of Golden Grain Energy or CEO like Mike Jerke of Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company can do an even more effective job because folks like Dave and Mike can put a human face on the benefits and importance of ethanol.

Our fly-in was hardly an exercise in preaching to the choir, rather, most of our meetings were with lawmakers who voted against allowing EPA to proceed with implementation of E15 or allowing USDA to help assist with blender pump installation.  A team of ACE members even met with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) regarding his bill to immediately repeal the ethanol tax credit.  We were under no illusion that we’d change Coburn’s mind.  However, ACE’s approach with him and other legislators who don’t support ethanol has been that we ought to talk to them because if we don’t take the time to explain why our industry and ethanol is important, who will?  Our industry cannot afford to allow our opponents to define us, we need to be proactive and talk to opponents as well as supporters of ethanol. 

The timing of our fly-in could not have been better.  While ACE members urged the lawmakers to support legislation providing consumer fuel choice through blender pumps and FFVs, President Obama gave a major speech recently outlining his vision for a new energy policy, which included a reference to corn ethanol’s ability to reduce foreign oil imports and the need for blender pumps and FFVs as well.  And the week following the fly-in, after our members urged senators to support S. 187, bipartisan legislation that provides for more FFVs and blender pumps, the Senate Energy Committee held a hearing on the bill, a real accomplishment in that this was the first time the committee devoted a hearing to ethanol infrastructure.  Finally, ACE members were able to lobby in support of reform, not repeal, of VEETC during the fly-in and fight back against Coburn’s amendment to repeal the tax credit immediately.  We effectively made the point with Congress that while Big Oil is clinging to their status-quo subsidies and reaping profits (and in some instances, avoiding paying taxes), ethanol is working to reform and even sacrifice our tax incentive in exchange for a level playing field.

This is the first step in what will be a challenging process of building relationships, educating new legislators, and reshaping ethanol policy this year, but an important step that we could not have taken without grassroots ACE members. 

We are grateful for the opportunity to create powerful bonds with grassroots advocates and to stand and fight with them in support of ethanol.

Author: Brian Jennings,
Executive Vice President,
American Coalition for Ethanol