Governor Terry Branstad and others described a new pro-ethanol campaign group as an educational opportunity for presidential candidates, though the real message was clear: if you want to do well in the Iowa Caucus, you should support the Renewable Fuel Standard.
America’s Renewable Future, a large bipartisan coalition, announced at the State Capitol today a major, well-financed campaign to take the message of renewable fuels to presidential candidates and caucus-goers. “The bipartisan renewable fuel standard is working for Iowa and the nation,” explained Bill Couser, a farmer from Nevada, Iowa who raises cattle. “It has ensured that renewable fuel producers have access to a market that is otherwise controlled by big oil.”
The speakers stressed the economic benefits the RFS has had not just to Iowa farmers, but to Iowa communities and the nation’s energy security. “Those of us that are involved in agriculture and economic development in Iowa know the difference this has made. We’ve lived it,” Branstad said. “It’s given consumers more choice, and it’s made our fuel costs more economical.” The organization counts Courser, former State Representative Annette Sweeney and former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge as their co-chairs.
The group looks to focus on several key message points when promoting renewable fuels during the caucus: renewable fuels create 73,000 Iowa jobs, they provide $5 billion in Iowa wages, and Iowa has doubled its ethanol production and tripled its biodiesel production since 2007.
Iowa has a long history of issue groups playing in the Iowa Caucus, some more successful than others. Often they will encourage supporters to pose specific question to the candidates, identify supporters of their issue to turn out to the caucus, and sometimes even hold their own forums for candidates to attend. America’s Renewable Future appears to be planning a robust operation, incorporating field, advertising, press, and social media tactics to promote their message.
Branstad emphasized that they do not plan on “prejudging” any candidate. “The last time we had a wide-open race without an incumbent for President of the United States was 2007, and that’s when the RFS was just beginning” the Governor explained. He’s hoping that candidates who haven’t been as supportive in the past may be swayed after seeing how the industry has progressed over the years.
Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson asked specifically about former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s past opposition to the RFS, to which Branstad expressed an eagerness to provide him with more information about the Iowa industry in hopes he changes his mind. One chance for such education will be at the March agricultural forum put on by Bruce Rastetter, who was in attendance at the event.
It’s true that, in the past, presidential candidates who have been hostile to the RFS have not done well in the Iowa Caucus. Senator John McCain skipped the state entirely, and opponents Perry and former Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann faltered in the caucus.
by Pat Rynard