Poll shows strong support for RFS, ethanol in Iowa

By Holly Jessen | October 21, 2015

A new survey shows that, once informed about the renewable fuels standard (RFS), 79 percent of Republican and 90 percent of Democrat caucus-goers from Iowa think the RFS is good for the nation. In addition, 76 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Republicans said they would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate that supports the RFS.

“This isn’t a Republican thing or a Democrat thing, it’s an America thing” said Eric Branstad, Iowa state director of America’s Renewable Future, during a conference call Oct. 21, when the group jointly released the poll results with DuPont. America’s Renewable Future is a non-profit based in Iowa with the goal of protecting the RFS during the presidential election. DuPont will hold a grand opening celebration at its 30 MMgy cellulosic ethanol facility in Nevada, Iowa, Oct. 30.  

Seventy-one percent of voters from both political parties reported having positive associations with corn ethanol, according to the poll results. Survey takers (78 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats) also indicated that they most often chose gas with ethanol or a biofuel mixture of some kind.

The survey was conducted by Selzer & Company, which in late September, contacted about 400 Democratic and 400 Republican Iowa voters likely to attend the February presidential caucuses. The voters were asked some general questions about energy and renewable fuels and then more specific questions about ethanol and the RFS, was described with this sentence. “The Renewable Fuel Standard requires that a certain percentage of renewable fuels like ethanol be blended into the gasoline supply.”

Jan Koninckx, DuPont’s global business director of biofuels, said during the call that cellulosic ethanol is on the verge of transforming and reforming the transportation fuel market, he said. It’s going from a centralized model, with large production facilities utilizing fossil fuel supply chains around the world, to more regional production of clean and renewable fuel. “In short, we are not surprised about these results, but we are happy to see this confirmation,” he said.

Brooke Coleman, founder and executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, talked about how extraordinarily effective the RFS has been, as a policy. The U.S. biofuels industry now has a total fuel production equivalent to that of an OPEC country, such as Ecuador. “We also find ourselves at a crossroads, and the crossroad is, there is a new rule coming by Nov 30 of this year,” he said. “That rule, as decided by the Obama administration and U.S. EPA, will either get us back on track with regards to the RFS and drive innovation and drive feedstock diversity, or it will continue to hit the pause button on the RFS and force companies like DuPont and others to invest into a marketplace that will demand cellulosic ethanol above oil, not be what the RFS intended and Congress intended.”

The current EPA proposal not only cuts blending numbers but changes in how the program works. “The point of the RFS, the reason the RFS is necessary, is to require oil companies to buy low carbon, more innovative gasoline and diesel alternatives, is because we don’t have a competitive marketplace and the oil companies won’t do it without policy,” he said, adding that the last thing any market needs is a change in law in the middle of the program.