The Industry’s Stake in this Election

By Brian Jennings | September 12, 2012

Next month, farmers will wrap up corn harvest, the U.S. EPA will respond to petitions to waive the renewable fuel standard (RFS), and Americans will elect a president and Congress. As much as the corn supply/demand balance sheet and EPA’s waiver decision concern the ethanol industry, I believe more is at stake for us in the election.

Farmers will harvest as many bushels as they can, signaling to our industry and other corn customers how much rationing must occur going forward. I’m confident EPA will deny the RFS waiver requests based on ethanol’s small role in feed and food prices, and its big role in moderating gas prices. 

Who we elect to represent us in Washington, D.C., and how they will vote on the RFS in 2013 remains an open question. Without a doubt, votes will be cast in Congress next year regarding the fate of the RFS.

What we have going for us is that ethanol has a compelling story to tell. We can and should go on offense. The RFS costs taxpayers nothing and is doing exactly what Congress intended. Foreign oil imports are below 50 percent, thanks primarily to the RFS. Americans are saving upwards of $1 or more at the pump because of ethanol. High-skill, high-wage jobs that can’t be outsourced have been created by our industry. This record of accomplishment means the RFS is working. But we can’t sit idly by, we’ve got to start at the grassroots level and educate our friends, neighbors and local elected officials about how ethanol is improving the lives of all Americans. 

You and I may not have enough money to match the campaign contributions of ethanol opponents such as C. Larry Pope of Smithfield Foods or Rex W. Tillerson of ExxonMobil, but we have the same influence they do in the ballot box. Our vote is as powerful as theirs.

I recognize most of us aren’t single-issue voters, but given what’s at stake for our industry, we have no other choice but to take our responsibility to vote in November seriously and to make our vote for ethanol nonnegotiable. The RFS is the only variable we have to level the playing field with oil companies. If we lose the RFS, we lose E15, our industry never sees the day when E30 and E85 are available on a widespread basis, and the promise of advanced biofuel vanishes.

As former Navy SEAL and U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey remarked at the American Coalition for Ethanol’s 25th anniversary conference in Omaha, the best thing we can do as an industry to get the attention of politicians is to make it clear we won’t vote for them unless they support the RFS.

To help inform ethanol supporters where certain candidates stand on the RFS, ACE has published voter guide information available on our website, Please take the time to educate yourself on the candidates’ RFS positions.

Given the gravity of the situation, it isn’t good enough to simply elect politicians who tell us they support the RFS. We need elected officials who are willing to stand up on the floor of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and speak out forcefully and effectively for ethanol in debates. We need members of Congress who will convince their colleagues to stand with us on RFS votes next year.

Make no mistake: our opponents are motivated to elect politicians who will vote to strike down the RFS next year. The stakes don’t get any higher. We must uncompromisingly elect candidates to Congress who vow to stand and successfully fight with us in support of the RFS.

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