NEVADA, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad said Friday that by proposing to reduce next year the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline, environmental officials had "embarked on a war on corn."
Branstad's comments came as he and other Republican politicians from Iowa gathered Friday with ethanol industry executives and farmers at a central Iowa ethanol plant to speak out against the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal. A 2007 law currently requires oil companies to blend billions of gallons of biofuels, including corn-based ethanol, into their gasoline each year.
Gov. Terry Branstad said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy indicated in August during a visit to Iowa she favored maintaining the ethanol volume requirements.
But Branstad added, "They still went ahead and proposed a bad rule. It's unbelievable the EPA embarked on a war on corn. It makes no sense," he said.
Branstad said ethanol production is key to maintaining a strong economy in Iowa, the nation's leading corn producer and top ethanol maker. He said lowering the volume of renewable fuels would jeopardize 44,000 jobs tied to the industry nationally.
In an interview, Branstad also criticized President Barack Obama for campaigning in support of ethanol as a green energy alternative but then allowing the EPA to ease the requirements. Obama has championed biofuels since his days representing Illinois in the Senate, and his administration has resisted previous calls to lower biofuel volumes or repeal the law.
Branstad was accompanied at Lincolnway Energy near Nevada by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, U.S. Rep. Steve King and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.
They spoke to about 150 farmers, ethanol industry workers and others who gathered in an unheated metal building with temperatures hovering just above 20 degrees.
Grassley said a good turnout should show ethanol opponents the tenacity of Iowa farmers.
"Right now you don't have pitchforks, but you're ready to fight for this issue," he said.
He said, if necessary, he and others are willing to take the fight to the halls of Congress, the courts, and corporate board rooms.
Rep. Steve King said he plans to read very carefully the law that established the Renewable Fuels Standard to see under what circumstances the EPA is allowed to lower it and to see whether to filing a lawsuit is an option.
The Obama administration on Nov. 15 proposed reducing the amount of ethanol in the nation's fuel supply by almost 3 billion gallons in 2014. It's the first time since Congress passed the law in 2007 that the requirement would be lowered. The law was an attempt to address global warming, reduce dependence on foreign oil and prop up the rural economy.
A recent AP investigation found that ethanol's effect on the environment is far worse than the government predicted or admits.
EPA officials say they remain committed to alternative fuels but by sticking with the volumes mandated by law, the amount of biofuel required would generate more ethanol than many engines can safely handle.
The oil industry lobbied hard for a reduction and is pleading with Congress to completely repeal the law.
The Iowa event was hosted by a coalition of companies and farm organizations whose members profit from ethanol production. They include DuPont, Monsanto, Syngenta and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.