Voters in Iowa will choose their favorite presidential candidates in February, and while the economy and national security are big issues, Iowans also place importance on things like ethanol.
According to a new poll from the Des Moines Register, 77 percent of likely Iowa caucus-goers who identify as Democrats support the ethanol mandate, a 2007 law requiring increasing amounts of alternative fuels to be blended into gasoline. In addition, 61 percent of Republican caucus-goers support the ethanol mandate. Ethanol is an alternative fuel source made from corn and other plant materials.
Iowa just happens to be the nation's largest producer of corn and ethanol, which has big implications for presidential candidates from both parties. Regardless, Democrats and Republicans in recent years have expressed support for ethanol – and not just those in Iowa, but also on Capitol Hill and the campaign trail.
Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, contends that ethanol helps reduce the America's dependency on foreign oil.
"Ethanol is a stone-cold winner when it comes to the environment,” he says. “It is 30 percent to 40 percent better when compared to gasoline in terms of carbon emissions. It helps to address global climate change. But more than that, it is reducing tailpipe emissions that cause real health effects."
Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, says ethanol does have certain good qualities, and acknowledges that production has gotten more efficient with some of the leftover product being used to feed certain livestock. Still, Kish says he would rather see a free-market scenario with ethanol.
"If it were such a great idea, this would happen naturally in a free market, in a free country - not by dictates coming from the government," he states.
The Des Moines Register poll did ask likely Iowa caucus-goers if they support tax deductions for oil and gas exploration and development. Of Republicans, 59 percent say yes, compared to 26 percent of Democrats. When asked about these matters in recent years, Kish told OneNewsNow that these "are the same tax breaks that normal businesses get for investment."
Meanwhile, Dinneen has dimissed concerns that ethanol is bad for some, if not many, engines. He also dismissed concerns by restaurant groups and some environmentalists that ethanol has a negative impact on food prices and the environment.