Setting Priorities to Defend, Advance Policies

By Brian Jennings | November 15, 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, members of the grassroots American Coalition for Ethanol have been building a strategic roadmap for 2012 and beyond. ACE hosted a member planning workshop in November, with plants from across the country sending representatives to help contribute to the development of policy, market development and public relations priorities. Our board of directors discussed our path forward as well.

An obvious short-term priority will be defense of the renewable fuel standard (RFS). Playing defense to protect the RFS may seem underwhelming. Many in our industry understandably prefer to go on offense and fine-tune the RFS so corn ethanol may qualify as an advanced biofuel (because the scientific data supports this adjustment). ACE members support this change, but they also appreciate that in politics, timing is everything, and the timing is poor for that particular change right now. Special interests that feel entitled to cheap corn forever have pushed for the introduction of several bills in Congress already to reduce or repeal the RFS and the drum beat will only continue in 2012. Moreover, an anti-ethanol congressional hearing took place in November, where the deck was stacked with witnesses who oppose the RFS.

In the spirit of the holidays, when we remember the reason for the season and what we ought to be thankful for, ACE members are grateful for the RFS and are conscious of the fact that we did go on offense in 2005 and 2007 to enact this sweeping and historical policy change. We don’t feel ashamed for defending the RFS, for if we fail to play effective defense, unlike with the sacrifice of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, the consequences would be destructive for our industry.

But we’ve got to look beyond the short-term as well. Earth is now home to more than 7 billion people, and biofuels from a variety of feedstocks are poised to transform how we produce fuel and food in a sustainable way. Many midterm and long-term priorities need to be addressed as well.

E15 represents the most important near-term opportunity to increase ethanol demand. ACE will work overtime with U.S. EPA and state regulators to ensure full implementation of E15 this year.

ACE has made consumer fuel choice a priority for years, and we’ll continue to champion legislation to deploy more flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) and blender pumps in Congress and work with states and the USDA to carry out existing programs for blender pump infrastructure. 

Our industry went on the offensive to enact tax credits, the original RFS in 2005 and the larger RFS in 2007, because we assembled coalitions with like-minded groups and convinced a majority in Congress these changes were critical to the future of our country. Going forward, ACE will build coalitions with new groups and mobilize grassroots support for ethanol outside the traditional Corn Belt to put more states in play so that ethanol can enjoy broader bipartisan support in Congress. This won’t happen overnight, but it is critical spade work that needs to be done. We can also capitalize on the 2012 election to build support for ethanol.

While blender pumps and FFVs will help level the playing field for consumers, ACE wants to address unfair tax policies which today unnecessarily reward fuels of the past such as oil instead of doing what tax policy should: encourage fuels of the future such as cellulosic ethanol.

Finally, new fuel economy rules will require automakers to modify engines in such a way that ethanol’s clean octane benefits, which are too often overlooked today, will become indispensable well into the future. Ethanol is poised to be the primary fuel to not only help achieve landmark fuel efficiency requirements but also to reduce harmful toxins emitted by today’s gasoline.

ACE remains committed to making U.S. ethanol the consumer fuel of choice and we look forward to working with our grassroots members to fulfill this mission in 2012 and beyond.

Author: Brian Jennings
Executive Vice President,
American Coalition for Ethanol
(605) 334-3381