The National Cattlemen's Beef Association and other livestock groups are renewing their fight against ethanol by backing legislation to target the renewable fuels mandate. NCBA has thrown its weight behind a bill to allow states to opt out of the renewable fuels mandate for ethanol.
The bill is sponsored again this year by Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla., who had no luck moving the measure last year. NCBA Director of Legislative Affairs Kristina Butts says cattlemen don't oppose the ethanol industry, only the artificial drivers that are propping it up.
"Right now the corn ethanol industry have a mandate for production, they have a 54 cent protective tariff on imported ethanol, and a 45 cent blenders tax credit incentive as well," Butts said. "With those three artificial drivers in the marketplace creates an unlevel playing field for all users of corn."
Butts complains that the ethanol industry has been subsidized to the tune of $30 billion over 30 years. But at the Renewable Fuels Association, spokesman Matt Hartwig calls the Inhofe bill pure politics.
"That a Senator from Oklahoma would introduce legislation to eliminate or allow states to eliminate the use of ethanol is purely pandering to the state," Hartwig said. "He gets hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from oil and gas interests. Of course they want more market share; this is just pure politics."
Hartwig calls it juvenile conversation distracting from the very real issue of addressing the national debt. He also says an opt-out law would raise gas prices and kill the ethanol industry.
"What they are doing is sending chilling signals to the marketplace as the ethanol industry continues to evolve and grow; developing new technologies that use a wide array of feedstocks to produce ethanol," Hartwig said. "What they are doing is a backdoor effort to try to kill the ethanol industry when it is the only viable and only readily available alternative to gasoline that we have today."
The cattlemen claim it's time to take the training wheels off the corn-based ethanol industry, but Hartwig counters that ethanol is in no way at the maturity level of the oil and gas industry that still receives tens of billions in subsidies.