Ethanol Is Boon for Lobbyists
Big corporate interests are lining up to battle for and against the expansion of the U.S. ethanol industry, producing a bonanza for lobbyists and public relations firms in the next Congress.
A new coalition announced on Tuesday that it had signed up at least 50 groups--including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Pork Producers, American Meat Institute, National Council of Restaurant Chains--to fight for the removal of tax breaks and tariff protections for ethanol. To map strategy, the coalition has hired Glover Park Group, co-founded by Joe Lockhart, former chief spokesman for President Clinton.
The food industry, including groceries, livestock producers and cereal manufacturers, contends ethanol is a main culprit in rising food prices because beef, pork, turkey and poultry producers have to compete against ethanol refineries for corn, raising animal feed prices.
But the ethanol industry has big guns on its side as well. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a close adviser to President-Elect Barack Obama, was a main architect of a federal law requiring ethanol use in gasoline.
Last week several large ethanol producers announced the formation of a new pro-ethanol group, Growth Energy, which plans ads in the New York Times refuting claims that ethanol is to blame for higher food prices. A leader in Growth Energy is Jeff Broin, chief executive of Sioux Falls, S.D.-based Poet, Inc..,a private company that is the largest producer of ethanol in the country. The company was represented by South Dakotan John Thune before he won a Senate seat in 2004.
The pro-ethanol group released an internal memo from the Glover Park Group outlining a campaign to "obliterate whatever intellectual justification might still exist for corn-based ethanol among policy elites."
Broin said the Glover Park memo exaggerates the impact corn-based ethanol has had on rising food prices. "The lies that the Big Food lobby has been spreading about clean, green biofuels have finally been exposed as an intellectually dishonest smear campaign," Broin commented.
Meanwhile, the Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy---whose members include Deere & Co., ADM, Monsanto Corp. and the Renewable Fuels Association--was formed several months ago to protect subsidies for ethanol that is produced with advanced, energy-friendly technologies.
The battle has produced strange bedfellows. Environmental groups and conservative fiscal watchdog organizations have joined with grocery chains and agribusiness to call for the scaling back of ethanol subsidies. At Tuesday's rollout of the Food Before Fuels Campaign, Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook--a persistent critic of the poultry and meat industries---stood next to a representative of the National Turkey Federation. Cook said too little was known about the impact of ethanol expansion on habitat, soil and water. "We should have gotten the science right before we started putting billions of dollars into ethanol," he said.
By The Editors |
November 19, 2008; 11:54 AM ET
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