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Herseth Sandlin defends ethanol

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin on Thursday lashed out at the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute for comments he made in an article that was published earlier in the week in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin on Thursday lashed out at the president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute for comments he made in an article that was published earlier in the week in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

Speaking about ethanol and renewable fuels, Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., quoted Red Cavaney as saying Congressional efforts to promote biofuels are "a joke being played on the American people."

He also said "the demand is not there" for ethanol-blended fuels like E-85 and criticized anti-price gouging legislation that was passed by the House of Representatives as a way to help stymie rising gas prices.

"I'm sure everyone can understand my anger earlier this week when the head of the American Petroleum Institute made outrageous and inaccurate comments about ethanol to the media here in Washington, D.C.," Herseth Sandlin said during a weekly press conference Thursday morning. "It's unacceptable to me that the leader of the oil industry's top advocacy group would make such inaccurate and self-serving statements about renewable fuels at a time when oil company profits are at a record high and families across the country are paying record prices for a gallon of gas."

Herseth Sandlin said the energy problem is serious, and "in my opinion, the cruel joke is the record profits the oil executives are making on the backs of hard-working families."

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Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition of Ethanol, said he appreciates Herseth Sandlin's defense of the industry, but said he thinks Cavaney simply used "an unfortunate choice of words."

"I would guess that Mr. Cavaney, after some further thought, would choose to use different words to characterize the role ethanol plays in the fuel supply," said Jennings, who works in a Sioux Falls office. "He knows very well that ethanol plays a meaningful part in the fuel supply.

"I'm sure he regrets making that statement, because he knows it's not true."

Jennings said he has heard Cavaney speak "very highly" of ethanol and the role it can play in the American economy.

"I'm not necessarily defending him. He's an influential person and runs the American Petroleum Institute. His words are powerful," Jennings said. "I think it was just a poor choice of words."

High gas prices have created an atmosphere of "white-hot rhetoric," Jennings said.

Herseth Sandlin said that if Cavaney has any doubt about ethanol's usefulness, he can simply ask the thousands of South Dakotans who have a stake in the industry.

"It's clear to me that big oil is completely comfortable with the price of gas continuing to rise toward $4 or more," she said. "With the average price of gas in South Dakota at $3.38 and rising, we should be doing more, not less, to establish energy independence and accountability within our energy markets. But big oil continues to work against us."

Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business Magazine since 2014.

He is a member of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. board of directors and, in the past, has served on boards for Junior Achievement, the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, United Way, Empire Arts Center, Cornerstones Career Learning Center and Crimestoppers.

As publisher, Wenzel oversees news, advertising and business operations at the Herald, as well as the newspaper's opinion content.

In the past, Wenzel was sports editor for 14 years at The Daily Republic of Mitchell, S.D., before becoming editor and, eventually, publisher.

Wenzel can be reached at 701-780-1103, or via Twitter via @korriewenzel.
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