Grassley: Cellulosic ethanol a treat for Iowa’s economy

Grassley-090507-18363- 0032By Chuck Grassley
United States Senator


Iowa is widely known for our first-rate hospitality, first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses and first-class production of corn, soybeans, pork and eggs. Fewer people may realize that our state also is a rising star in America’s clean energy renaissance.

In fact, Iowa is leading America’s strategic efforts to foster energy independence and secure affordable, reliable and renewable sources of clean energy. Our state is on track to generate nearly 30 percent of its electricity from wind. From supply chain to socket, Iowa wind energy creates good paying jobs and keeps electricity prices low for consumers.

Iowa’s prized farm commodities also are being tapped to diversify and improve America’s domestic, renewable fuel supply chain, including biodiesel and corn-based ethanol. Iowa’s crop yields climb from one harvest to the next thanks to precision farming techniques, responsible soil stewardship and advances in bioseed technology.

Driving growth in America’s energy renaissance can be credited with creating good jobs, revitalizing rural economies, boosting wage growth and farm income, reducing U.S. reliance on foreign fossil fuels and generating clean-burning fuels and pollution-free electricity, such as wind, solar and hydropower.

In the last three decades, Iowa’s renewable fuels sector has gained tremendous momentum and growth. Federal tax and energy policies have encouraged the American entrepreneurial spirit, giving farmers, captains of industry and investors the green light to think big, dream big and go big.

In fact, from conception to commercialization, Iowa’s newest ethanol biorefinery is a by-product of Iowa ingenuity, innovation and investment. The brand new, state-of-the-art, next-generation, $225 million cellulosic ethanol production facility is opening for business during the heart of harvest season right in the heart of Iowa.

DuPont expects its fully integrated production facility will convert 370,000 dry tons of corn stover to 30 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol each year. Corn stover is what’s left-over from the harvest. Think cobs, leaves, husks and stalks. We’re talking about adding value to organic crop waste. More than 500 local farmers from a 30-mile radius will supply the biorefinery with their “post-harvest” harvest each year.

Just think. Iowa is ground zero for next generation biofuels. According to DuPont, this biorefinery is the largest cellulosic ethanol facility in the world. It is a world-class model for next-generation, sustainable, clean energy. And it’s right here in Iowa.

As an outspoken champion for rural America and a renewable energy policy leader in the U.S. Senate, I worked successfully a decade ago to secure passage of the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) that planted seeds of opportunity for growth, innovation and stability in the marketplace. The RFS was created to help diversify and propel next-generation biofuels to market, give consumers a competitive choice of fuels at the pump, curb reliance on foreign fossil fuels and protect the environment.

Despite Big Oil’s tricks to spin a web of misguided information and spook renewable fuels growth, investment and development, groundbreaking collaboration continued among scientists and researchers, as well as farmers, job creators and investors in the private sector. The brain trust masterminding the new world-class facility in Story County represents the best and brightest from leaders in agriculture, academia and industry.

In the meantime, I am continuing my clarion call in Congress to shake sense into the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It got stuck in Big Oil’s sticky web. Specifically, I have pressed the EPA to live up to its legal obligations to provide certainty to the biofuels industry and set robust RFS volume requirements that were passed by lawmakers elected by the American people.

The EPA’s proposed volume requirements under the RFS program for 2014, 2015 and 2016 must be finalized by Nov. 30. It’s disappointing the EPA ignored targets set by Congress. I will continue working to prevent Big Oil from hoodwinking the EPA so that critical investment in infrastructure will grow and allow American consumers to have clean energy choices.

Iowa’s new cellulosic facility also will help dry up the crocodile tears spilled by Big Food that tries to assign blame to corn-based ethanol for rising food prices. Don’t forget, the facility in Nevada will produce fuel-grade ethanol from crop residue, not corn kernels. As long as it takes, I will continue debunking myths from the cauldrons of Big Oil and Big Food and press the EPA to uphold the law.

As Iowa’s senior U.S. senator, I welcome Iowa’s shining new star to America’s renewable energy constellation. Like the pioneers who made their mark generations before us, Iowa’s 21st century risk-takers and innovators are embracing environmental stewardship as they plow forward to achieve prosperity and work to make tomorrow even better than today.