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Inside the Beltway: Working in Concert for Biofuels
by Eric Washburn

Recently a memo from the National Corn Growers Association to Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association was leaked to the press and resulted in a number of sensational articles about the tensions between these two organizations. To some extent the proliferation of voices promoting biofuels is a natural consequence of the industry’s explosive growth over the last decade, as well as the challenges of low profit margins and becoming the focus of attack by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and others. These tensions in the industry have been running high for some time and there is no shortage of different views as to how to handle these challenges.

As the biofuels industry grows and becomes more heavily scrutinized, it must be willing to embrace new thinking and creatively and effectively plot a course to thrive in a world that increasingly values low carbon fuels, clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and other environmental goods and services.

The diversity of institutions now promoting biofuels brings additional energy and strategic thinking into the ongoing public policy discussions about how best to achieve industry goals on higher blends, tax policy, indirect land use, blender pumps and related infrastructure, and other issues. The challenge will be in managing all these voices so that they work, to the greatest extent, in concert.

NCGA is right in recognizing that Congressional staffers are frustrated hearing different messages from different groups. As a former Senate staffer, I can attest to the fact that it’s much easier if there is a clear message from the industry. It is probably too much to hope that we can always agree – and, frankly, it can be counterproductive to stifle alternate or dissenting views but in fact may be very legitimate. But where possible, the industry should strive to achieve some consistency in both the substance and communication about our policy objectives.

There are many policy goals that are shared by the major biofuels advocacy groups. Agreement on the vast number of these goals should not be that difficult. And where groups disagree, they should be free to go their own way. But where there is the potential for agreement, the industry would benefit by better policy development and strategic coordination. The NCGA initiative aimed at reconciling the views and approaches of the different biofuels advocates could help to achieve this sort of formal coordination, providing a regular and ongoing forum for airing different ideas about the appropriate priorities for the industry, and strategic and tactical means for achieving those goals.

This initiative must be more inclusive than just NCGA, RFA, ACE, and Growth Energy, and it appears NCGA is open to including other important voices from the biofuels community in this process.

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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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