Iowa wants ethanol front and center in 2016 race

Iowa is launching a campaign aimed at making the federal ethanol mandate a central issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Iowa hosts the first party nominating contests of the election cycle and counts the ethanol mandate as one of its top policy priorities, since corn, which goes into making most ethanol, is grown throughout the state.

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The officials and business interests behind the campaign dubbed America’s Renewable Future want to use Iowa’s presidential caucus in January 2016 to press candidates to “take a stand” on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and make it central to the race.

“Americans of both political parties know that a robust RFS creates jobs in America, reduces our dependency on foreign oil and offers more consumer choice,” Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) said in a statement.

“The last time there was a wide open race for the presidential nomination in both parties was 2007, just as the RFS was beginning to take effect,” he said. “Since then, Iowa has built 17 new bio-refineries, doubled ethanol production, tripled biodiesel production, and launched commercial scale production of cellulosic ethanol with three brand new facilities.”

The supporters of the multimillion-dollar campaign say it is primarily an educational one, aimed at making sure that presidential candidates and the American public understand how important ethanol is to Iowa.

The group will also work to tell voters how various candidates feel about the renewable fuel policy.

The campaign comes at a critical time for ethanol. Opposition to the federal ethanol blending mandate is growing, among a group that includes the oil industry, some environmentalists, motorists and food interests.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is more than a year late in setting the ethanol blending level for 2014 and has only said that the mandate will come sometime this year.

Eric Branstad, the governor’s son and a former GOP operative, will run the campaign along with Derek Eadon, who worked for President Obama’s reelection campaign.

It will be co-chaired by former Lieutenant Gov. Patty Judge (D) and former state Rep. Annette Sweeney (R).