2010 U.S. Elections: What You Thought

“The big challenge for the biofuels community will be for it to remain united and to stop internecine sniping, and provide a uniform and united front to Congress.”

By JIM LANE, Editor & Publisher, Biofuels Digest

In the Digest, we published some of our own, on the spot conclusions about the impact of this week’s historic US elections on the future of clean energy. Today, we turn it over to you, and reflect what you thought about the message from the voters, and the impact of the change in power and perception in Washington.

The Wide View

We have taken a wide view — voices from algae, ethanol, biodiesel, bloggers, renewable fuel retailers. On California’s Proposition 23, which would have derailed California’s clean energy framework but was rejected by voters, we took an ever wider survey, with voices from and solar and renewable energy services as well as bio.

I don’t think there is a single person we could better make a start with than the new COO of Growth Energy, Jim Nussle, the former eight-term congressman from Iowa. Jim also served as director of OMB in the Bush Administration, and lost a tight race for Iowa’s governorship in 2006 to Chet Culver (who went down to defeat himself). In addition to being a board director at Growth since its inception, Nussle joined the Republican House leadership at the same time as incoming speaker John Boehner. So we are delighted to lead with his remarks on what it all means, although we of course put him very much on the spot on his third day full-time in the industry.

Jim Nussle, COO, Growth Energy: “I don’t think the elections sent a loud and clear message, and I find it amusing how pundits writing the next morning talk about “what the American people said.” The reasons that my mother voted are different than my mother-in-law. That’s true I suspect with all our neighbors and friends. So it’s a mixed message. If I had to sum it up in one word, I would say “Stop.” Stop the spending, stop the waste, stop the bickering, and start doing things differently.

“We can help stop sending money overseas to China. That’s where I see that we have an opportunity to be part of the solution. I doubt that ethanol will be the first thing on the Congress’ mind on day one. But after they have tackled the deficit and health care and all those things, they may be looking for something they can agree on. The president, in his press conference after the election, said that energy may be an opportunity for bipartisanship, and our Fueling Freedom plan is a policy option that was designed to meet as many as their policy objectives as possible — the fiscal challenge, energy security, job growth, emissions.

“We lost some ethanol friends, and it cuts across party and region. Good people went down to defeat, but there are good people coming in.

“Our messaging? Well, to a farm state legislator our message on rural economic development — it’s a fairly easy message they may have used themselves. On energy and national security, it may not be an issue that has crossed their minds.

“I became part of the Republican House leadership at the same time as John Boehner, and I recognize what he is talking about when he talks about a return to what we call “regular order,” and he is believe me very sincere about this. It gives the process an opportunity to work, where members have the opportunity to participate, and you have less influence from special interests. I think that the oil industry has an advantage as a special interest, and that the light of day bodes well for ethanol.”

Brent Erickson, EVP, Industrial and Environmental Section, BIO: “The election is a mixed bag for biofuels and biobased products interests. While advanced biofuels have fairly good bi-partisan support, the Republican takeover of the House may signal a tilt toward big oil and oil refiners. Also the Agriculture Committees will be worth watching. It could be that more urban Congressman populate the Ag committees then farm state Congressmen. That can mean some challenges regarding bioenergy provisions in the upcoming farm bill.

“The big challenge for the biofuels community will be for it to remain united and to stop internecine sniping and provide a uniform and united front to Congress. It is time for the biofuels sector to grow up and realize the enemy is not within but outside the biofuels community. The biofuels community needs to learn from Ronald Reagan who said no Republican should speak ill of any other Republican. The same holds true for biofuels — no biofuels company should speak ill of any other company, any type of biofuel or any other suite of technologies. It is really simple — united the biofuels sector wins — divided it loses. This is especially true now that the Republicans have taken over the House.”

Propel Fuels CEO Matt Horton: “We believe the expanded access to and use of domestic fuels is something that can be supported by both sides of the newly elected Congress and is critical to moving our country’s economy forward. Here in California, with the defeat of Proposition 23, voters have ensured the preservation of California’s AB32, sending a clear message that they want further development of clean energy sources and better choices in how they power their homes, buildings and vehicles. This is the type of choice Propel aims to provide through the expansion of our state-wide network of renewable fuel stations.”

John Plaza, CEO of Imperium: “We here at Imperium have always believed that supporting the domestic biofuel industry is not a Republican or a Democratic position — it’s an industry that is truly bi-partisan. The US biodiesel industry stands ready to continue to create jobs in America, reduce our Nation’s dependency on oil imported from outside our boarders, and most importantly to stop sending billions of dollars out of this country every year. I hope, and trust, that the new members of Congress continue to appreciate that a healthy US biodiesel industry is central to our Nation’s economic recovery and our national security. Continued support and investment in clean energy is the best path forward for our country.”

Scott Johnson, President, Sustainable Oils: “We need not look any farther than the US military’s commitment to biofuels, such as those made from camelina, to appreciate that a healthy US biofuels industry is in the best interests of our nation, regardless of party. Our industry is creating both agricultural and industrial jobs across America, decreasing dependence on imported oil, and creating new opportunities for sustained economic growth.”

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis: “Every election means change of some sort, but Congressional support for ethanol is bipartisan, and it will remain that way despite changes in the majorities of either chamber. Growth Energy is committed to reaching out to newly-elected members of Congress and helping them learn how domestic ethanol strengthens our economy and our national security. In the short-term, we intend to work with the current Congress on proposals such as Fueling Freedom, extending the ethanol tax credit, and expanding market access for domestic ethanol.”

Tim Zenk, VP Corporate Affairs at Sapphire: “Taking head on the challenge of energy security, creating jobs here in the US that can’t be exported, and finding a petroleum replacement have to be at the top priority of every leader in Congress and the White House. I see energy security as the one topic which is squarely in our national interest and bipartisan. I look to President Obama and Congress to build an energy policy which makes our country richer and more secure by aggressively investing in technologies to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Taking on the challenge of energy security and creating US jobs must be the top priority of our leaders in Congress and the White House.”

Bob Dinneen, CEO, Renewable Fuels Association: “As expected, Republicans made tremendous gains last night. While some races are not yet final, it is clear that Washington will be a more Republican town in January. Will that have a meaningful impact on the U.S. ethanol industry? I believe the answer to that is no. Ethanol is not now, nor has it ever been a partisan issue. There were strong ethanol proponents that lost last night — Earl Pomeroy, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. But there were many more ethanol advocates that won last night too — Chuck Grassley, Mark Kirk, and John Shimkus. And, more importantly, for the most part those that may have been defeated were replaced with equally strong advocates for value added agriculture and ethanol. Does anyone believe that Kristy Noem (R-SD) will not be a strong voice for ethanol?” Dinneen’s complete remarks are here.

Mary Rosenthal, Executive Director of the Algal Biomass Organization: “The US algae industry enjoys broad, bi-partisan support, given that our industry is at the forefront of fostering American innovation, creating new jobs and reducing our dependence on imported oil. These are powerful benefits that transcend party affiliation, and we look forward to working with new members of Congress — on both sides of the aisle in 2011.”

Scott Miller, @BioBlogger: “This year’s mid-term election was a reaction against government overreach on decisions that require more regionally nuanced solutions. This is consistent with what we’re learning as we develop biofuels and biopower projects. The government can set objectives, but should leave it up to local constituencies and regional conditions to determine how best to achieve them. It is imperative that this new Congress find common cause to follow through on the administration’s strong commitment to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

On California’s Proposition 23:

ESolar (solar thermal) CEO John Van Scoter: “The growing number of green jobs is a testament to the power and momentum of the industry, and we at eSolar are pleased to see California voters support clean technology innovation. As California continues to lead the nation in energy policy and investment, concentrating solar thermal power will play a major role in the deployment of renewable energy, and eSolar looks forward to bringing our projects online.”

OriginOil CEO Riggs Eckelberry: “Clean technology is California’s newest boom industry, akin to the aerospace and high-tech industries that literally built our modern state into the G-8-sized powerhouse that it is today … AB 32 maintains the market certainty needed for investment, research and development of inventions, as well as jobs. Since its passage, clean tech venture capital in California has skyrocketed. That’s something we need to reinforce, not cut back on.”

REC Solar CEO Angiolo Laviziano: “Today we stand at the epicenter of the clean energy economy, and we thank the voters of California for supporting the continued growth of a stable and sustainable business environment. Companies like ours have installed hundreds of megawatts of clean, powerful solar energy, with thousands more to come, and it’s only a fraction of activity driven by the nearly $10 billion in investment capital than has flowed into California’s green technology sector. We are excited to keep the momentum moving forward.”

Tioga Energy (renewable services) CEO Paul Detering: “Renewable energy development is crucial to the evolution and growth of California’s economy, and we’re pleased that voters supported that growth in striking down Prop 23 … With Prop 23’s attempt at undercutting clean energy industries now behind us, California can build on its position as a world leader in clean energy. We at Tioga Energy are excited to be a part of that momentum.”

Vote Solar: “There were a thousand and one reasons to oppose this harmful big-oil ballot measure. Prop 23 posed a serious threat to new economic opportunity, to green innovation, to public health, to our environment, to our ability to compete in the global marketplace,” said Rosalind Jackson of Vote Solar. “I’m proud that Californians of all political leanings found a reason to join together in defense of our landmark climate change law and the brighter future it entails.”

Copyright 2010; Biofuels Digest; All rights reserved