Ethanol industry demands some love in the presidential energy debate

With so much of the debate in the presidential race focused on energy policy — and both parties so relentlessly hammering on the need for more renewable production from sources like wind and solar — the ethanol industry recently issued an open letter to both candidates looking for some political love.

POET, the world’s leading ethanol-producing company, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, called on Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain to continue federal subsidies for the industry, which turns corn and corn byproducts into biofuel for specially equipped cars and trucks.

POET has 25 production facilities in seven states, including Colorado, and the letter was signed by 1,700 employees and investors in the company, including 800 from states such as Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Ohio, which are still considered “tossups” in this presidential race.

Ethanol — which the industry credits with creating more than 200,000 new jobs nationwide in 2007, contributing $47.6 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product and generating $4.6 billion in federal tax revenues — prevented an estimated 13 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2007, according to a POET release.

But the concept of stepping up its production has been largely off the political radar screen in recent months, even with wild fluctuations in gasoline prices.

“Based on the enormous response to this letter from POET employees and local farmers, it is clear that many Americans will be voting based on their economic and energy interests this year,” Jeff Broin, CEO of POET, said in a release. “Ethanol is America’s best renewable fuel, reliable and affordable now and we hope that the next president continues to invest in this homegrown and high-tech energy solution.”

One knock on ethanol is that it increases the demand for corn and therefore is driving up food prices. That’s a notion Broin rejects in light of the recent plunge in corn prices but continued upward spike in overall food costs.

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