By THOMAS BEAUMONT, Associated Press
Iowa's governor and the state's entire congressional delegation on Thursday signed onto a letter to the Obama administration asking the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a hearing in Iowa to discuss the agency's proposal to reduce the amount of ethanol that must be blended with gasoline in 2014.
Iowa is the nation's leading producer of ethanol, a fuel additive primarily made from corn that produces lower carbon emissions than gasoline. The EPA in November proposed reducing by nearly 3 billion gallons the amount of biofuels required to be blended into gasoline in 2014, prompting outcry by political leaders from both parties who claimed such a move would devastate Iowa's economy.
The letter asks that the EPA hold a hearing in Iowa so residents and people from other Midwestern states can offer testimony.
In a separate statement, Rep. Steve King, a Kiron Republican, said "It is critical that the EPA and the White House Rural Council hear from Iowans and other Midwesterners on the benefits and importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard."
The Renewable Fuel Standard is part of 2007 legislation signed by President George W. Bush and updated under President Barack Obama that called for increasing annually the minimum amount of renewable fuels, including ethanol, in the nation's fuel supply. The EPA's November proposal marked the first time the government had called for rolling back that minimum requirement.
The EPA stated in its November report that the additive had become less necessary in light of fuel-efficient engines and lower fuel demand. The recent boom in domestic oil production has also made ethanol less prized as a U.S.-produced fuel that limits dependence on foreign oil. The grain alcohol burns cleaner than gasoline but produces less energy.
Branstad and pro-ethanol trade groups have said the EPA's proposal would cost Iowa tens of thousands of jobs.
Iowa State University economist David Swenson has said the economic impact elected officials claim is overstated. About 2,000 people nationwide work in the ethanol industry, and Iowa, with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, risks losing comparatively few jobs, Swenson said.
The EPA is taking public comment for 60 days on its recommendation.