Political Strategist Speaks to #ACE16DC

ace16dc-tewesAs we all know in this contentious presidential campaign, most candidates spend at least as much time attacking their opponents as they do talking about their own good qualities and experience. That is a strategy that the ethanol industry should employ more often, according to an experienced political strategist.

Paul Tewes of the Smoot Tewes Group (STG) has 20 years experience as a political operative and he believes that in the ethanol public relations battle, there is a clear villain on the other side. “We’re only going to win if we always make it a contrast with oil,” said Tewes, speaking to members of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) meeting in Washington DC this week. “We always have to continue to stress our positives because there are so many of them but we have to contrast that with the negative facts about the oil industry.”

Listen to an interview with Tewes here: Interview with Paul Tewes, Smoot Tewes Group

ACE 2016 DC Fly-in Photo Album

Trump and Cruz Rumble Over #Ethanol in Miami

debate-trump-cruzThe topic of ethanol came up in last week’s GOP debate in Miami, although it is unlikely to play a big role in the Florida primary this week.

During the debate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) boasted that he campaigned against ethanol in Iowa because he wants to cut the size of government programs. “When I went to Iowa and campaigned against ethanol mandates, everyone said that was political suicide,” said Cruz. “If we’re going to stop bankrupting our kids and grandkids you’ve got to be willing to take on the lobbyists…specifying these are the programs I will eliminate.”

Donald Trump responded that Cruz did a flip flop on ethanol in Iowa. “Ted did change his view and his stance on ethanol quite a bit at the end,” said Trump. “He did change his view in the hopes of doing well.”

Listen to the exchange here: Cruz and Trump debate ethanol in Miami

Cruz outlined his stand regarding ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard in a January 6 Des Moines Register editorial. He does advocate a “phase out the Renewable Fuel Standard” but at the same time Cruz says he will “vigorously enforce our antitrust laws to ensure that the oil-and-gas industry cannot block access to the market for ethanol producers.”

API Continues to Lambaste #RFS

The American Petroleum Institute (API) continues to lambaste the Renewable Fuel Standard (#RFS) as the energy policy draws criticism from all sides. Cited as the most effective energy policy ever enacted in the U.S. by supporters, API remains steadfast in its efforts to get the legislation repealed.

gas station in fairfield glade TN

Gas station in Fairfield Glade, TN promoting ethanol-free fuel. Photo credit: Joanna Schroeder

Shortly before a Senate committee oversight hearing on Wednesday, API’s Downstream Group Director Frank Macchiarola said during a press call, “Ahead of the hearing, we are reminding policy makers and the public that the oil and natural gas industry is stepping up our call for Congress to protect consumers from this harmful mandate. We continue to seek the repeal of or significant reforms to the RFS. Since the inception of the ethanol mandate a decade ago, the U.S. has undergone an energy transformation from a nation of energy dependence and scarcity to one of energy security and abundance. It is well past time to reform outdated energy policies to reflect the energy realities of today and tomorrow.”

Macchiarola added that API is hopeful support in Congress for repealing or modifying the RFS is growing. (Although if the current presidential race is any indication, this is in fact not true.)

Growth Energy responded to the remarks stating once again that the oil industry is spouting its “same old, disproven talking points about ethanol and the RFS”. The organization points to the fact that ethanol is the most tested fuel in American history; it’s a less expensive choice for consumers at the pump; and that NASCAR drivers have raced more than eight million miles on ethanol.

“Though this kind of rhetoric should be shocking, it no longer is,” said Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy. “The oil industry has made a habit of repeatedly trotting out bogus studies for the single purpose of blocking competition and consumer choice to protect their profits. The fact is that rigorous testing and unbiased studies from the government and other industries have repeatedly demonstrated that ethanol and other biofuels are a less expensive, cleaner and better performing alternative to oil.” Continue reading

Iowa Biodiesel Day on the Hill

Chad Stone/IBB Chair/REG (far right), Grant Kimberley/IBB exec dir (Center) speak with Mark Smith (head of table), Iowa House Democratic Leader

Chad Stone/IBB Chair/REG (far right), Grant Kimberley/IBB exec dir (Center) speak with Mark Smith (head of table), Iowa House Democratic Leader

“Iowa Biodiesel Day on the Hill” recently took place hosted by the Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB). During the event, members called on state legislators to extend and expand biodiesel incentives that are set to expire. IBB notes these incentives help Iowa’s 13 biodiesel producers make the state the top in the country for production. In 2015, 12 of these biodiesel facilities produced a record 242 million gallons of biodiesel. There is also a retailers credit that encourages fuel retailers to carry biodiesel blends, and according to the Iowa Department of Revenue, biodiesel-blended gasoline accounted for 48.9 percent of diesel gallons sold in 2014.

The event included pubic education and a luncheon where IBB members met with legislators to discuss 2016 legislative priorities. These include:

  • Extending the Biodiesel Production Credit, set to expire at the end of next year. The credit is 2 cents per gallon on the first 25 million gallons of production per biodiesel plant, and helps keep biodiesel production and economic activity in Iowa.
  • Extending the Biodiesel Promotion Retail Tax Credit, which provides petroleum retailers 4.5 cents a gallon on blends of at least 5 percent biodiesel (B5), set to expire at the end of next year. Market competition encourages this savings to be passed on to motorists.
  • Enhancing the Retail Tax Credit by adding a 2.5 cent credit (7 cents total) for blends of B11 and higher. This will encourage higher blends of biodiesel to be distributed in the state.
  • Supporting Governor Terry Branstad’s recommended appropriation to continue the successful Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program, which helps fuel distributors and retailers update equipment to include biofuels.
  • Supporting the Biochemical Tax Credit legislation, which would stimulate more demand for biochemical production.

The state biodiesel policies in place have been effective in increasing production and consumption in Iowa, said Grant Kimberley, Iowa Biodiesel Board executive director.
“It makes sense that the majority of Iowa’s diesel fuel should contain at least some biodiesel, and we’re very interested in encouraging higher blends. Common sense would say we use our own fuel product rather than foreign oil. Expanding the retail tax credit for blends of B11 and higher would resoundingly help us accomplish that.”

Ethanol Plays Key Role in Iowa Campaigning

caucusSen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) won the Republican ticket in Iowa last night with Donald Trump coming in second despite Cruz’s ambiguity on ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). However, compared to the campaigning four years ago, ethanol has gained a significant amount of positive ground according to a press conference held by Growth Energy. The Iowa Caucus kicks off the beginning of the nomination process for the next U.S. president.

Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy, noted on the call that the oil industry is calling the results proof that Iowans don’t care about ethanol. However, he says the facts are, “Over 80 percent of the votes yesterday in Iowa were cast for candidates that are in favor for the RFS.” The results find that there were more pro-RFS votes made in Iowa this year than in 2012.

For example, in 2012 in Iowa, anti-RFS candidate votes were cast for Ron Paul: 21.5 percent; Rick Perry: 10.4 percent; and Michele Bachmann: 5 percent for a total of 36.9 percent. Whereas in 2016, anti-RFS votes were for Ted Cruz: 27.7 percent and Rand Paul: 4.5 percent for a total of 32.2 percent.

According to Paul Tewes, political strategist, who has been a keen observer of the campaigning process, said he has never seen ethanol more talked about, perform better as a whole, or have a politician like Ted Cruz be more contorted about how to talk about it than this one. “This was a race here where ethanol was put on the map, where candidates had to talk about it and most of the candidates moved either completely for it, or the few that didn’t, moved towards it.”

He also noted that if Cruz is the Republican nominee, then he believes Democrats will take the state in November.

Monte Shaw, executive director for the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) added that the effort to support the RFS in Iowa has always been more than about one candidate. “It was about trying to get candidates to understand the reality of the support oil gets from the government and how the RFS cracks through that monopoly.”

To learn more about Iowa voter support for ethanol and the RFS, listen to the full press conference including the Q&A here: Iowa Caucus Results Press Conference

RFA: Cruz In But Ethanol Not Out

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) may have won in Iowa last night, but according to the Renewable Fuel Association (RFS), ethanol is not out. RFS President and CEO Bob Dinneen said that his win has created a narrative that presidential candidates campaigning in the state no longer have to voice support for ethanol or the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Dinneen said this is not the case.

“The narrative comrfalogo1ing out after last night’s Iowa caucus that the domestic ethanol industry is somehow on the ropes is false,” said Dinneen. “Many people seem to have forgotten that, in the run-up to last night’s caucus vote, though Sen. Cruz stated he was opposed to the RFS he also expressed support for ethanol as a fuel. In fact the senator has discussed the need to provide American consumers better access to ethanol fuels like E25 or E30, stating that they could prove to be quite popular with American consumers who are increasingly concerned about fuel economy. The senator also called ethanol an effective additive because it increases octane and decreases harmful tailpipe emissions. That doesn’t sound like someone to me who is writing off the domestic ethanol industry. That sounds to me like someone who is just being true to his no-mandates of any kind philosophy.”

Dinneen added, “Moreover, pundits anxious to write off ethanol’s potential currency in Iowa should note that more than 85 percent of the votes cast in Iowa last night were in support of candidates who continue to champion the RFS.”

Cruz Takes Iowa Despite #RFS Campaign

America's Renewable Future logoSen. Ted Cruz of Texas finished a strong first in the Iowa caucuses, despite heavy campaigning against him by the ethanol industry and even Governor Terry Branstad saying it would be a “big mistake for Iowa to support him.” Still, America’s Renewable Future, headed by Branstad’s son Eric, took a positive tone on the caucus results, noting that 100% of Democrats and “more than two-thirds of Republicans are caucusing for a pro-ethanol, pro-RFS candidate.”

“We feel good about our results. The vast majority of our candidates and the vast majority of caucus-goers realize the economic, national security, and environmental benefits of the (Renewable Fuel Standard),” said Eric Branstad. “And even though Sen. Cruz’s position would be devastating to our economy and tens of thousands of Iowans’ livelihoods, even he, who has accepted more donations from oil than any other candidate and is personally invested in oil companies, claims that he’s pro-ethanol and wants to eliminate oil subsidies. That’s a sure sign how important the RFS and ethanol are.”

trump-iowaDonald Trump was “honored” that he placed second in the Monday caucuses in Iowa and expressed his love for the state during his speech to supporters last night, with a parting note that he could become a farmer.

“Iowa, we love you, we thank you, you’re special,” said Trump. “We will be back many, many times – in fact, I think I may come here and buy a farm – I love it!”

Listen to Trump’s remarks here: Donald Trump after Iowa Caucuses

Iowa Ethanol Retailer Profiled for Caucuses

goodIn its coverage leading up to the Iowa caucuses, NBC Nightly News profiled an independent fuel retailer who has become a strong advocate for higher ethanol blends.

Charlie Good, who has been in the fuel retailing business for 35 years as a convenience store operator and auto mechanic, started offering higher ethanol blends at his Good and Quick store in Nevada, Iowa in 2013. NBC headlined him as an “Iowa man who’s never caucused before” and he had the opportunity to tell Tom Brokaw why he wanted to be more involved in this year’s election – and it’s all about renewable fuels like ethanol. “This is about national security, providing our own fuel and not buying from people who want to hurt us,” he said.

I interviewed Charlie last March when he took his story to Capitol Hill with the American Coalition for Ethanol, and you can watch Good in the NBC spotlight here.

Policy Panel at #NBB16

nbb-16-panelBack by popular demand, the 2016 National Biodiesel Conference once again featured a panel of former Congressional representatives to talk about renewable fuels policy and in this election year, presidential politics as well.

The panel featured former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina, who spoke at the first general session this week; former Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, and former Republican Congressman Kenny Hulshof of Missouri.

All of the panelists expressed grave concerns about candidates’ abilities to run this country. “I think my party will either choose well or choose its destruction,” said Inglis.

As a Democrat, Dorgan said he was worried about both political parties. “All this (the campaign) is very clever and funny but this is really serious business, we’re talking about the future of this country,” he said.

Hulshof said he was personally supporting John Kasich for president, but definitely was not so much for Trump. “I’m sure there are a lot of Trump supporters here – and that’s great …. for you.”

When it came to policy issues for biodiesel, all of the panelists expressed their support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and for a producers tax credit.

Listen to the panel here: Biodiesel Policy Panel

2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

GOP Debate Spotlights Cruz Views on #Ethanol

debate-cruzWith the Iowa caucuses coming up on Monday, agriculture and renewable fuels finally got some attention in the Republican debate last night, as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was asked about his position on the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“We should be developing oil and gas and coal and nuclear and wind and solar and ethanol and biofuels but I don’t believe that Washington should be picking winners and losers,” said Cruz during the debate. “But I don’t believe Washington should be picking winners and losers and I think there should be no mandates and no subsidies whatsoever,” adding that his tax plan includes eliminating subsidies for oil and gas. He said it is “not true” that he opposes ethanol and noted Rep. Steve King (R-IA) “perhaps the fiercest defender of farmers” in Iowa supports him.

Listen to Cruz here: Sen. Cruz on RFS and ethanol

iowa-cornHowever, the senator’s words got him no love from Iowa Corn Growers president Bob Hemesath, a farmer from Decorah, who urges people in Iowa to “support a candidate who supports the RFS.”

“Ted Cruz claims that he supports ethanol, he does not support the RFS,” said Hemesath during a conference call this morning. “We can’t afford to let the ethanol industry to be taken away from us by a president who doesn’t support the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Listen to Hemesath’s comments here: Iowa Corn Growers president Bob Hemesath