Clinton Voices Support for Renewable Energy

clinton-iowaWith a John Deere tractor as a backdrop, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton voiced her strong support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), solar and wind energy during a visit to Iowa this week.

“We need to capitalize on rural America’s strength as a producer of clean, renewable energy,” said Mrs. Clinton during a speech in Ankeny, adding that she has two main goals in that area. “Half a billion solar panels within four years and enough energy production from renewables to power every home in America within 10 years.”

Noting that Iowa produces a third of its total energy from renewables, especially wind and biofuels. “If Iowa can do it…so can the rest of America,” she said.

“We need to strengthen the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Mrs. Clinton continued to applause. “So that it drives the development of advanced biofuels and expand the overall contribution that renewable fuels make to our overall fuel supply.”

Introduced by former Iowa governor and current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Clinton discussed her plan to support rural America which includes investments in rural areas and rural transportation, making the production of agricultural products more profitable for farmers, and promoting the use of clean energy and renewable energy sources.

Listen to Vilsack’s introduction and Clinton’s speech here: Hillary Clinton on Ag in Iowa

Reign in the EPA Say Republican Candidates

The last batch of Republican presidential candidates took the Soapbox stage during the last weekend of the Iowa State Fair.

Chris ChristieNew Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) took a different approach and only answered questions. His overall statement was that the government needs to enforce the laws currently in place – not just the laws we like- but all laws. Speaking of a law he doesn’t like: the Clean Power Plan. His state has submitted a request to end the program and believes that each state should set their own legislation and develop their own plans. For example, he noted that Iowa is a land of wind, but in the most dense state in the country, solar works better. New Jersey uses solar, natural gas and nuclear and has already met their 2020 clean power goals.

When asked about the Renewable Fuel Standard (#RFS), he said he supports the RFS. The problem is that the Obama Administration along with the EPA is not enforcing the law. He stressed that he is a huge supporter of more energy options and the RFS provides just this and he called out to other candidates to make up their mind on their RFS position.

Listen to why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie wants to be president: Chris Christie at the Iowa State Fair

U.S. Senator from Texas Ted Cruz (R) took much of his time to crack jokes about the Democrats andTed Cruz the rest of his time to talk about all the U.S. government executive orders he would rescind along with government organizations he would dismantle including the IRS, Department of Education and all the other ABCs. And Cruz promised he will reign in the regulatory agencies that “descend like locusts on farms and ranches and small businesses.” As for energy, not sure if reigning in the EPA includes revisions (or trying to overturn) the Renewable Fuel Standard, Clean Power Plan or WOTUS.

Listen to why Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz wants to be president: Ted Cruz at the Iowa State Fair

Bobby JindalLouisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) went back to the “by the bootstraps” message. He said this election is all about the American dream, like most other candidates, and how to bring it back. He wants to evolutionize the economy, stop illegal immigration, buff up our military power and curb the power of regulatory agencies such as the EPA who is regulating the “water in our backyards”. He concluded, “I ask you to believe again. Let’s rescue the idea of America before it slips away.”

Listen to why Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wants to be president: Bobby Jindal at the Iowa State Fair

Mark EversonThe very last presidential candidate to take the stage was Mark Everson (R) who is the former IRS Commissioner. Who better to call for tax reform than the person who knows it best. He said that this campaign, this country, needs a new type of politician (one could argue Donald Trump and Ben Carson are proving this to be true). In that he meant one who isn’t a life-long politician but rather one who knows how to run a business. He stressed that tax reform would get the economy going.

Listen to why Mark Everson, former IRS Commissioner wants to be president: Mark Everson at the Iowa State Fair

And thus concludes our #Energy and #Ag coverage of the Des Moines Register’s Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair. The election is long so the candidates (especially the Democratic candidates) who chose not to address these concerns head on will have some time to get their messages straight before the caucus tentatively scheduled for Monday, February 1, 2016.

#ACE15 Honors America’s Renewable Future

L-R: Absolute Energy CEO Rick Schwark, ARF co-chair Bill Couser, ARF coordinator Eric Branstad, and ACE EVP Brian Jennings

L-R: Absolute Energy CEO Rick Schwark, ARF co-chair Bill Couser, ARF coordinator Eric Branstad, and ACE EVP Brian Jennings

America’s Renewable Future (ARF) is less than one year old, but what the coalition has accomplished in that short time has been so impressive that the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) recognized them with the organization’s policy and legislative leadership award this year. The coalition was established in January of this year for the sole purpose of educating 2016 presidential candidates about agriculture, biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Accepting the award at the ACE annual meeting in Omaha this week were two Iowa ethanol advocates – Rick Schwark of Absolute Energy and Bill Couser with Couser Cattle Company who serves as ARF co-chair, as well as the son of Iowa’s governor who was instrumental in the formation of the coalition.

Eric Branstad says right now they are focused on the Iowa caucuses in February. “We are building a team of pledged supporters…pledging to come and caucus for an RFS supporting candidate,” he said. “Right now we have surpassed 25,000 caucus goers and our goal by November 1 is to have 50,000.”

ARF has been very busy this past week at the Iowa State Fair talking to visiting candidates, including Republican front runner Donald Trump. “We had a 40 minute, one-on-one meeting with him,” said Branstad, who added that Trump’s knowledge about ethanol going into the meeting was negligible. By the end of the meeting, after getting a short course on the history and advancements of the industry, Branstad felt they had made an impression. “He said ‘I want to invest!’ so I guess that’s the best compliment we could get from Mr. Trump,” said Branstad.

Listen to my interview with Eric Branstad here: Interview with Eric Branstad, America's Renewable Future

I also talked with ARF co-chair Bill Couser about the organization’s first eight months. “I think one thing we’ve been able to bring out in these candidates is ‘who are you really?’,” said Couser. “You talk about their wives and their kids – we want to know that here in the Midwest.”

Couser says he still wants to get Hillary Clinton out to his operation near Nevada, Iowa. “To get her out on our farms and ranches and actually show her about corn production and show her where ethanol’s made and show her what that’s done for our schools and our roads and how important that is for our country,” he said.

In this interview, Couser also talks about his testimony at the EPA hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard, his unique perspective as a cattle producer and ethanol advocate, and why he is so involved with the American Coalition for Ethanol: Interview with Bill Couser, America's Renewable Future

2015 ACE Annual Meeting Photos

Perry Urges Return to “Constitutional Country”

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s main message on the soapbox yesterday at the Iowa State Fair was to get America back to a constitutional country. Citing the 10th amendment, he stressed that power and decision making needs to go back to the state and to the people, as intended by our founding fathers. Power needs to be taken away from a corrupt Washington, D.C.

Rick Perry“I’m mad as hell and I’m going to do something to change it,” said Perry if he is elected.

He also believes that educational curriculum, health insurance and transportation infrastructure should be brought back to the state and not dictated by the government. He wants to secure the border and strengthen the military. “People have belly full of decisions made 1,500 miles away instead of right here in this state,” he said. “I think it was Dwight D. Eisenhower who said It’s pretty easy to farm when your plow is a pencil and you’re 1,500 miles away from the farm. And that’s what we’re seeing today as we see this continual consolidation of power in Washington, D.C.,” added Perry.

Throughout his speech he said continually said he would bring the constitution back as a guide for the country – a place we got away from and need to go back to in order to bring back strength, prosperity and the American dream to the people. The former state agriculture commissioner for Texas did not take questions nor did he address energy or ag in any detail while on stage.

Listen to why former Texas Governor Rick Perry wants to be president: Rick Perry at the Iowa State Fair

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.

Prez Candidates Tell ‘Bootstraps’ Stories

I’ve hit on a few common themes in recent posts after hearing more than a dozen soapbox speeches at the Iowa State Fair. Another one: how the presidential candidates’ parents succeeded with nothing to make life better for their children and the children pulling themselves up by their “bootstraps” to become successful.

Marco RubioThese stories were no different when Florida Senator Marcus Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich took the stage. Rubio’s parents immigrated from Cuba. He noted that America doesn’t owe him, he owes America. He also said that he wants to continue living in a country where what his parents did for him he can do for his children. But that dream, he said, is slipping away. How can the country bring back the American dream? He said the first step is addressing the economy. “We’re not just facing an economic downturn, we’re facing an economic revolution….We need to modernize economic policies so we can compete with the rest of the world.”

He also stressed the need to keep our people safe and noted that America is not fully utilizing its energy resources. Like many before him, other than a passing comment, he did not address energy, environment and agriculture.

Listen to why Florida Senator Marcus Rubio wants to be president:Marcus Rubio at the Iowa State Fair

John KasichOhio Governor John Kasich also shared his “bootstrap” story and shared other antidotes rather than really hitting hard on any particular issue. However, during the question portion he was asked his position on agriculture. He answered, “I’m for agriculture. You listen to Terry Branstad [Iowa Governor] and you think about traditional agriculture but what we really have to do is begin to think about how agriculture is going to look like in the next 20 or 25 years. I believe there are so many products that can come from traditional agriculture that can improve the lives of all Americans. And I keep pushing our people to think about that, to use our universities to do the research and to make sure that agriculture and business is closely linked together so that we can spawn new industries out of agriculture.”

“We’re lucky in Ohio,” Kasich continued. “We found natural gas and one of the great things about that is it’s allowing us to become energy independent. So we don’t have to kowtow to the Saudies anymore when it comes down to conducting our foreign policy. We need to look into the future on all of these things, on agriculture, on energy.”

Listen to why Ohio Governor John Kasich wants to be president: John Kasich at the Iowa State Fair

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.

Ethanol Industry Asks Walker to Clarify RFS Stance

America’s Renewable Future (ARF) is asking Governor Walker to clarify his position on the Renewable Fuel Standard after his remarks at the Iowa State Fair on the Des Moines Register Soapbox. Walker called for ethanol mandates to be phased out; yet acknowledge that the industry created around the RFS must stay in place. Click here to read about his speech.

Listen to why Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said about ethanol and the RFS:Scott Walker on the RFS

Scott Walker-1In response, ARF responded in a statement, “Gov. Walker’s intention to phase out the RFS over the next couple of years needs clarification. It is unclear whether the governor’s time frame would mean an immediate repeal upon entering office, if elected president, whether it might mean two years from the current date, or two years from achieving full market access.

Anything short of full market access being achieved would be a catastrophic blow to America’s farmers and rural economies. It is also a blow to those who have invested into the renewable fuel industry. Billions of dollars were invested by famers and local investors to produce biofuels with the promise of an RFS that lasts at least until 2022. Ending the RFS prematurely will only strand capitol and punish the pioneers who invested in clean, home grown renewable energy. The RFS has created jobs here in Iowa and around the country that cannot be outsourced, reduced our dependence on foreign oil, helped clean our air, and provided consumers savings at the pump.

America's Renewable Future logoIf we are to take Gov. Walker’s comments to mean a two year phase out upon entering the White House, then he is opening the door to an immediate repeal and that means putting an end to over 73,000 Iowa jobs. Keeping in mind what’s already happened just this year due to the uncertainty surrounding the RFS—from over 800 layoffs at John Deere, to $13.8 billion in investment shortfalls, to lower corn prices and farmland values—such a position would be devastating.

While the governor’s position is murky, it is absolutely clear that a phase out anytime before full market access is realized would be disastrous for farmers and rural communities in Iowa and all over the United States, which were hit hardest during the recession and are finally starting to get back on their feet.

We urge Gov. Walker to clarify his position regarding the RFS and stand with our nation’s farmers for a strong RFS until full market access is a reality.”

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.

Republican Candidates: ‘We Can Fix America’

The battle cry of the presidential Republican candidates is to fix America through debt elimination, military strength and cooperation. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham took the stage during the Des Moines Register’s Soapbox and spoke to thousands of people at the Iowa State Fair. While the crowd is supposed to be polite, manners took a back stage during Walker’s remarks especially when he said, “If we can fix a state like Wisconsin we can fix America.”

The candidates want to take the power out of Washington, D.C. and bring it back to the state houses and to the hard working people. Walker, somewhat in jest, said Washington is 68 square miles surrounded by reality. Let’s take a look at what the candidates believe is reality.

Scott WalkerScott Walker is calling for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be reigned in. He said they are killing the farmers (he was referring to WOTUS, or the Waters of the U.S.) and is pushing for an all above energy strategy. He approved the Keystone Pipeline on the first vote and continues to do so. In terms of climate change he said that there needs to be a balance between sustainable environment and a sustainable economy. He does not support the “ethanol mandate” or the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) but because it is in place and there is an industry based on the legislation the country needs to support the bill. However, he is pushing for consumer choice at the pump through market access and availability at the pump for higher blends of ethanol. His state has offered grants for retail stations, especially those independently owned, to be able to put flex fuel pumps and offer additional ethanol blends.

Listen to why Wisconsin Governor wants to be president here:Scott Walker at the Iowa State Fair

Lindsey GrahamLindsey Graham spent the majority of his time discussing his military strategy. He said there are, “Too many terrorists. Too much debt. Too few jobs.” He has been in the Air Force for 33 years and spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan while he was in the reserves. He stressed that he is the first candidate to push to go back to war not end war. “If I’m elected we going to go back and pound them into the sand,” he said of Iraq. He did not address energy, environment or agriculture so we’ll have to continue to follow his campaign to see if and what his stance is on these issues.

Listen to why Senator Lindsey Graham wants to be president here:Lindsey Graham at the Iowa State Fair

Carly FiorinaWhile some candidates didn’t use any of their time to take questions, Carly Fiorina dedicated the majority of her time in answering questions. Like others, she believes the minimum wage should be increased but not uniformly; rather, the pay should be comparable to the cost of living which is different not only from state to state but from city to city. She too took aim at the EPA and stressed innovation rather than regulation will be more effective. And like Walker, she too doesn’t support ethanol mandates and believes they should be phased out. Needless to say, this position is not too popular in country’s largest ethanol producing state. Similar to Graham, she did not directly address agriculture or the environment.

Listen to why Carly Fiorina wants to be president here:Carly Fiorina at the Iowa State Fair

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.

Poll Finds Biodiesel Matters

A new poll commissioned by the Iowa Biodiesel Board finds that 76 percent of voters in Iowa widely support expanding the Renewable Fuel Standard to increase biodiesel use in the U.S. The poll comes out during the Iowa State Fair where presidential hopefuls are taking the Des Moines Register Soapbox and speaking to the crowd. The majority of voters surveyed also said a presidential candidate’s view on the RFS is important to their vote.

biodiesel pumpGrant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, said a candidate’s support for renewable fuels should be a central campaign issue, both in Iowa and beyond. “Growing a diverse, domestic energy supply is one of the most critical challenges our nation faces. “There are many foreign security threats today, which only strengthen the argument for domestic fuel production. The RFS has helped us move in that direction, but it’s a policy constantly under threat. Where the next president stands on this matters to voters.”

The IBB has reached out to several campaign leaders, inviting candidates from both parties to tour one of the state’s 12 biodiesel plants. The group plans to share the voter data with the campaigns.

Kimberly added, “As a sustainable, commercially available advanced biofuel with economic and environmental benefits, biodiesel is a shining success in what America’s innovative farmers and small business community can achieve in energy production.”

Santorum, Sanders Miss Energy Boat, Chafee Pro Hydro

There are a lot of candidates vying to be the next president of the United States floating around the Iowa State Fair, but for being in Iowa, many are missing the boat on two very important issues to the state – energy and agriculture. This weekend, presidential candidates Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator of Pennsylvania (Republican); Lincoln Chafee, former Governor of Rhode Island (Democrat); and Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator from Vermont (Independent running for the Democratic nomination) all pushed their economic and military agendas as part of the Des Moines Register Soapbox series while laying low on other major issues. Let’s recap their remarks.

Rick SantorumRick Santorum touted his military expertise by noting that “no one in this race has the record I do on national security”. If elected, he will defeat ISIS and how he will do this is being explained in his 2020 Perfect Vision for the Future. Like George Pataki (R-NY) he wants to cut corporate taxes. Santorum was silent on renewable energy, agriculture and climate change.

Listen to why Rick Santorum wants to be president here:Rick Santorum at the Iowa State Fair

Bernie SandersBernie Sanders had quite the crowd and has set himself apart as being the only candidate to speak on the soapbox so far who wants to expand social security. He plans on doing this by lifting the cap on taxable income. Several other hot button issues: make all higher education free; overhaul campaign finance; end racism by bringing about major reform in the criminal justice system; equity pay for women in the workforce; and economy – “We need an economy that works for working people”.

And, climate change is real. He said, “When we talk about our responsibilities, as adults, as parents, as citizens of this Earth, we have a moral responsibility to make certain that we leave this planet in a way that is habitable for our kids and grandchildren. The debate is over. Climate change is real. Climate change is caused by human activity. Climate change is already causing devastating problems in our country and around the world. What the United State must do, and I will do as president, is lead the world in working with other countries to transform our energy system.”

Listen to why Bernie Sanders wants to be president here:Bernie Sanders at the Iowa State Fair

Lincoln ChafeeLincoln Chafee believes that when electing legislators, voters need to look at past performance, character and vision. He told the crowd that while he was governor, he worked to curb climate change; fought for marriage equality; made investments in education a priority; and helped to lead the nation in the rollout of Obama Care. In terms of national security, he will work hard to end wars if elected saying, “Prosperity comes with peace”.

While he didn’t address renewable energy during his remarks, he did answer the question on his stance on renewable power for rural America. His answer: hydropower. He was part of a group who worked with Canada to bring hydropwer down to the northeast. He stressed that it is reliable, affordable and clean and needs to have a more prominent position in the energy discussion. He also supports other forms of renewable energy including geothermal, wind and solar.

Listen to why Lincoln Chafee wants to be president here:Lincoln Chafee at the Iowa State Fair

None of the candidates specifically addressed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this time around. But at some point all candidates in the race will have to discuss their position to win the state’s nomination- Iowa is the leader in biofuels production including ethanol and biodiesel and has been leading several campaigns to save the RFS.

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.

Republicans Carson, Pataki on the Soapbox

Republican presidential hopefuls Dr. Ben Carson and former New York Governor George Pataki took the Des Moines Register Soapbox during the Iowa State Fair this weekend with a common message of reducing America’s debt.

Ben CarsonDr. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, focused much of his remarks on personal stories yet engaged the crowd with lessons learned. For example, he said, “The person who has the most to do with what happens in life is you.” Smart words from a smart man. His big campaign focus, though, is that the country is in the process of destroying the future of the next generation in part because both Democrats and Republicans are “blowing up the budget”. He stressed the real problem is the fiscal gap – program needs that don’t meet needed funding – or unfunded liabilities (Medicare, Social Security).

The closest he came to addressing energy was when he spoke about the importance of the arts in education and when he was growing up if he said Van Gogh, the response was, ‘add gas and the van will go’. All joking aside, in the first Republican debate he said, “I would probably be in favor of taking that $4 billion a year we spend on oil subsidies and using that in new fueling stations’ for 30 percent ethanol blends.”

Listen to why Ben Carson wants to be president here:Ben Carson at the Iowa State Fair

George PatakiPataki stood strong on both economy and the military. He was the NY Governor during 9-11 and said “we must shut down ISIS”. He wants to give “the power back to the people”. He wants to throw-out the corrupt tax codes, reduce the government workforce by 15 percent and lower tax rates for small business and families.

He also said he is the only candidate that grew up on a farm. “I don’t have a plane. I have three tractors. In fact, I was out on a tractor last week moving hay.” He spent most of his life living on a farm and he, his wife and family farm today in upstate New York. “Great, but what does that does it mean? It teaches you values,” stressed Pataki.

Pataki didn’t discuss energy so voters who care about the issue will need to keep an ear to the ground in future months to learn more about his stance on renewable energy in America.

Listen to why George Pataki wants to be president here:George Pataki at the Iowa State Fair

Click here to read our coverage of the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox series at the Iowa State Fair.