ACE releases results of congressional candidate survey

By Holly Jessen | October 02, 2012

A total of 10 candidates for U.S. Senate or House of Representatives in Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota responded to a two-question survey sent out by the American Coalition for Ethanol.

The organization surveyed candidates from select states and congressional districts, asking whether they supported the renewable fuel standard as well as if they would support extending key cellulosic biofuel tax incentives. Although participation wasn’t as high as hoped, the organization pointed to positive results from those that did respond. “Our survey reveals strong bipartisan support for the RFS and for leveling the playing field between oil and biofuels,” said Brian Jennings, executive vice president.

Four of the responses were from candidates seeking election to a seat in the Senate or House that they had not previously held before. Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota democrat working to get elected to the Senate, served previously as North Dakota Attorney General from 1993 to 2001. She plans to continue the work of retiring Sen. Kent Conrad and former Sen. Byron Dorgan by maintaining the RFS. “The RFS has resulted in major advancements in the renewable biofuels industry and has provided significant benefits to North Dakota and the United States as a whole, in particular helping to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” she said. Heitkamp also said the state would benefit from continued investment in cellulosic ethanol. “While the country remains in a very difficult fiscal position, we must be careful not to choke off emerging industries that provide promising pay-offs for the future,” she said.

In Indiana, Joe Donnelly, a democrat, is running for a seat in the U.S. Senate. He supports the RFS and would work to keep it intact, he said, adding that it is essential to establishing a market for biofuels and reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. He also supports a multi-year extension of key cellulosic biofuel tax incentives as well as efforts to level the playing field for the advanced biofuel industry by ending taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil. Donnelly is currently serving his third term in the House.

Democrat Christie Vilsack is seeking election to represent Iowa in the House. Maintaining the RFS and a long-term renewal of the $1 a gallon tax credit for the production of advanced biofuels are key components of her five-point energy plan, Vilsack said. Without the RFS, it won’t be possible to create a sufficient market for renewable fuels, which would help keep Iowa’s bio-based economy growing. Vilsack also believes that new domestic markets and expanded export opportunities must be developed. Vilsack was the First Lady of Iowa while her husband, Tom Vilsack, served two terms as governor.

Matt Varilek, a democrat seeking election to South Dakota’s lone seat in the House, called himself a vigorous supporter of the RFS. “Biofuels can play a significant role in meeting our energy challenges, and Congress should play a role in facilitating the growth of the industry,” he said, adding that he also supports the extension of tax incentives to encourage development of the industry and improve ethanol infrastructure.

For full survey responses, including what the incumbents said, see ACE’s story, which was published in the September/October issue of Ethanol Today.