OPINION: Ethanol supporters make voices heardThis past week, members of the ethanol industry, including myself and fellow staff from the Poet plant in Mitchell traveled to Washington, D.C., for a series of meetings with members of Congress, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and other top government officials.
By: JERRY RUBENDALL, Guest columnist
This past week, members of the ethanol industry, including myself and fellow staff from the Poet plant in Mitchell traveled to Washington, D.C., for a series of meetings with members of Congress, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and other top government officials. This trip was part of Growth Energy’s annual advocacy conference. The productive few days allowed the ethanol industry to highlight the important role renewable fuel plays in local communities, like Mitchell, and how it positively impacts not only the rural economy, but the entire American economy.
My contingent from South Dakota met with the offices of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., Sen. Orin Hatch, RUtah, and Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., to discuss the current state of the ethanol industry and stress the importance of supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). At a reception held during the conference, I had the opportunity, along with the other participants, to meet with key industry champions like Sen. Grassley, R-Iowa, Harkin, D-Iowa, Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Thune, R-S.D., as well as top officials from the White House.
These visits are an important opportunity for lawmakers to hear directly from their constituents about the issues that matter most. Explaining the real world benefits seen in Mitchell and across rural America from a personal perspective truly put a face on our industry. With calls to waive the RFS, it is more important than ever to have a dialogue with Congress and the administration and to work with them to show that the RFS supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and significantly impacts the development in next generation biofuels.
The conference also allowed me to clarify misinformation surrounding the calls to waive the RFS and provided an opportunity to talk face-to-face with lawmakers to explain how market forces work in deciding where the corn will go. This conference provided the critical opportunity for industry representatives such as myself to respond to a summer filled with attacks by the Big Food and Big Oil companies who wish to profit from the elimination of this critical energy policy.
The ethanol industry not only has helped our local communities, creating jobs in Mitchell and elsewhere in South Dakota, but it also offers consumers a choice of a homegrown, renewable fuel that is less expensive than traditional gasoline and puts dollars back in the American economy, instead of sending it overseas to OPEC.
With higher blends of ethanol, like E15, ready for the market, it is crucial for lawmakers to understand its value and an email, letter or lobbyist does not always have the sway of an actual constituent who has taken the time to travel to D.C. to meet with their representative. I can honestly say this trip was worth every minute, and I look forward to future conferences to continue to represent the ethanol industry and keep an open dialogue with lawmakers.
American consumers deserve a choice at the pump, and the ethanol industry deserves fair debate where misinformation and distortion do not determine the outcome. The ethanol industry currently supports more than 400,000 jobs, revitalizes rural communities and continues to spur investment and innovation in America’s heartland. Not to mention it is better for our environment and decreases our dependence on foreign oil.
The RFS is working. Mitchell depends on it, South Dakota depends on it and America depends on it.
Jerry Rubendall is a Poet Biorefining Mitchell board member.