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Pair of new ethanol groups seek to right troubled industry

Agriculture.com Staff 02/25/2009 @ 10:39am

Calls for a united front to rescue the troubled ethanol business earlier this week unfolded into the announcements of the formation of two new industry groups.

Shortly after he delivered remarks at the National Ethanol Conference Tuesday in San Antonio, Texas, Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen was noted as one of the main stakeholders in a new organization, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance.

"What we need to do...is to continue to do what we have always done -- to speak with one voice," Dinneen said Tuesday in San Antonio.

Among the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance's (GRFA) goals is to promote "biofuels-friendly policies internationally," according to a report from the organization. "Through the development of new technologies and best practices, the Alliance members are committed to producing renewable fuels with the smallest possible ecological footprint."

In addition, the group comprising ethanol industry associations from 29 countries in North America and Europe, will "actively promote policies that advance global investment in biofuels to create urgently needed 'green jobs' while at the same time reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions," according to a GRFA report.

But, GRFA isn't the only new group to pop up in the ethanol industry as of late. Growth Energy, a lobbying group for ethanol that was formed last November, announced Wednesday that it’s hiring National Farmers Union President Tom Buis to be its CEO. It's also naming a new senior adviser, former Iowa Congressman Jim Nussle, who headed the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush.

Growth Energy's co-chairman, General Wesley Clark, who made the announcement, said the new leadership will continue working to get the EPA to approve adding more than 10% ethanol to ethanol-gasoline blends. Clark said the ethanol industry is already producing enough fuel to displace a tenth of the nation's gasoline and that if the U.S. is going to use all of the corn-based ethanol and cellulosic ethanol that the Obama administration is planning for in the future, that the 10% cap will have to be lifted.

Buis said that ethanol last year contributed $65 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product and that it can do more to help the economy without any need to tap federal funds.

"Blending a higher percentage of ethanol into our gasoline is a step we can take right now to increase jobs,” Buis said Wednesday. "We don't have to wait."

Buis said leaving Farmers Union wasn't an easy decision but he considers alternative energy development, including wind and solar as well as biofuels, to be the key to restoring a rural economy that he said has been in decline for 80 years, due in part to agriculture's tendency to overproduce.

"What Growth Energy is doing, is in my opinion the whole ballgame in rural America," Buis said. "I came to Washington to make a difference and I think that this truly is the future of rural America."

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