Announcing his candidacy for the president in the heart of ethanol country, Republican Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, made headlines Monday for his comments on phasing out ethanol subsidies, but the real story is that the industry agrees with him.
“The hard truth is there are no longer any sacred programs,” Pawlenty said. “The truth about federal energy subsidies — including federal subsidies for ethanol — is that they need to be phased out. We need to do it gradually. We need to do it fairly, but we need to do it.”
Pawlenty stressed his strong support for ethanol. “The industry has made large investments and it wouldn’t be fair to pull the rug out from under them immediately, but we must face the truth that if we want to invite more competition, more investment and more innovation in the industry, we need to get the government out,” he added.
Listen to Pawlenty’s comments regarding ethanol here: Candidate Pawlenty on Ethanol
In response, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association President Walt Wendland, CEO of two Iowa ethanol companies, said the ethanol industry is on board with the reform and phase down of the current ethanol incentive as part of the discussion on all energy programs as proposed by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. “Governor Pawlenty’s remarks today appear to be in line with Sen. Grassley’s approach for ethanol reform,” Wendland said, noting that the governor pointed out that energy incentive reforms must be across the board. “We agree that the massive amount of federally funded petroleum incentives must be a part of any reform discussion. Iowans look forward to Gov. Pawlenty further detailing his plans to ‘phase out’ petroleum subsidies, perhaps in a speech in Houston, Texas.”
American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive Vice President Brian Jennings says Pawlenty’s stance on ethanol mirrors the thoughts of many ethanol supporters.
“The U.S. ethanol industry has been working proactively with the White House and both Senate and Congressional leaders on reforming the ethanol tax incentive by reducing its cost and emphasizing consumer fuel choice,” Jennings said. “We appreciate Governor Pawlenty’s position that there are no sacred programs and that all energy subsidies, particularly oil tax subsidies, need to be changed, because the U.S. can no longer afford them.”
Pawlenty is a Minnesota native who served two terms as that state’s governor. His official announcement kicked off a campaign this week that will include stops in Florida, New Hampshire, New York and Washington D.C..