Iowa GOP hopeful wants higher ethanol mandate

Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tuesday to increase the amount of ethanol and biodiesel refiners must use, a day after she was accused of not supporting the mandate that is popular among Iowa farmers.

The EPA has proposed to reduce the volume of ethanol that must be blended into gasoline this year, while keeping the biodiesel mandate the same under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“As you know, the RFS ensures our national fuel supply provides increased consumer choice, less dependence on foreign oil, improves the environment, and creates jobs for those in my home state of Iowa — and across the country,” Ernst wrote to EPA head Gina McCarthy.

Ernst’s letter came a day after progressive group Americans United for Change launched an advertising campaign accusing her of being close with the oil industry and not supporting the RFS. She will be the subject of a fundraiser this week that includes representatives from the political action committee of Exxon Mobil Corp., which wants the RFS eliminated.

Renewable fuels enjoy strong support in Iowa due to the prominence of the agriculture there.

Ernst said Iowa has 42 ethanol refiners and the industry supports 55,000 jobs.

In her letter, Ernst did not explicitly ask that the EPA settle on a particular volume for renewable fuels.

White House adviser John Podesta told Senate Democrats last week that the administration plans to raise the 2014 level before making it final, according to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).