Tom Latham's shrill ignorance and attacks on Iowa ethanol

(Expect this to become a 2012 campaign issue if Iowa's new Congressional district map pits Braley against Latham. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

On February 16, 2011, Congressman Tom Latham stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and made a complete fool of himself while simultaneously attacking the Iowa ethanol industry.  It’s not clear if Latham just didn’t read the amendment he was attacking, if his staff gave him bad analysis, or if he is so desperate to attack Congressman Bruce Braley, who sponsored the amendment, that he ignored all of the facts and the numerous ethanol and renewable fuels organizations who were aggressively encouraging lawmakers to support it.

Check out the video and see how Latham breathlessly goes on and on about the common sense amendment, it’s pretty astonishing:

During Latham’s ill-advised diatribe, he claimed that fears from the ethanol industry were “unfounded” and that Republicans weren’t taking anti-renewable fuel positions. This is patently false. Even the EPA’s Administrator Lisa Jackson argued that the same provision included in another Republican bill would kill the Renewable Fuels Standard.

The amendment proposed by Braley would have helped to protect the Renewable Fuels Standard, and subsequently Iowa ethanol, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that ethanol industry groups stood with Braley, as reported in the WCFCourier:

Braley's amendment received the backing of several industry groups, including the National Corn Growers Association, the Renewable Fuels Association and the Advanced Ethanol Council, among others.

"Ethanol is one part of our nation's solution to the energy challenges we face. Now is not the time to turn back the clock on the energy, environmental and economic progress this industry has made," said Bill Brady, chairman of the ethanol council.

Even more surprising, on the very same day that Latham sided with Republican leadership instead of Iowa farmers, several of the largest ethanol organizations wrote an open letter to Congress encouraging them to “support Amendment No. 521, offered by Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, which safeguards the Renewable Fuels Standard program against any unintended consequences resulting from efforts to block EPA climate change programs.”

The Renewable Fuels Association also sent a press release on February 16th encouraging lawmakers to stand up for ethanol by supporting Braley’s amendment.

Additionally, the AEC urges members of Congress to remove language in the CR that would defund administrative efforts to implement the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The AEC fully supports an amendment by Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) that would reinforce the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to implement the RFS.

“The RFS is as important, if not more important, to advanced ethanol companies as it is to current ethanol producers,” said Brady. “Ethanol is one part of our nation’s solution to the energy challenges we face. Now is not the time to turn back the clock on the energy, environmental and economic progress this industry has made.”

One day after Latham’s meltdown in the House, RFA sent another press release praising Braley for “raising awareness about the anti-ethanol, anti-fuel choice agenda of some members of Congress.”

It should be pretty clear to anyone with half a brain that Braley’s commonsense bill was necessary in order to protect Iowa ethanol, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the worst political analysts in Iowa, Craig Robinson, reported on the Latham meltdown by claiming that “Braley didn’t understand what he was talking about.”

Unfortunately for Tom Latham and his buddy Craig, they are in fact the ones that don’t know what the hell they are talking about. But I guess that’s what happens when you blindly read the Republican leadership’s anti-ethanol talking points.

One question remains in this whole disturbing episode: When is Congressman Tom Latham going to go back on the floor of the Congress and apologize for giving cover to the job-killing Republicans who are dead set on killing the ethanol industry?

Disclosure: I’m not paid by Rep. Bruce Braley but I support his campaign and any progressive politician in Iowa.  If you have an idea or topic for a diary, please don’t hesitate to email me! kirkwoodsamuel at yahoo dot com.

  • I guess we'll find out

    later this year who is right. Braley’s office issued this statement on February 19:

    Braley votes no on job killing, reckless Republican spending bill

    Washington, DC – Congressman Bruce Braley released the following statement after the Republicans’ Continuing Resolution, the bill that will fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, passed the House. The bill was approved at 4:30 am this morning by a vote of 235 to 189.

    “At the darkest hour of the night House Republicans passed a reckless, job killing bill. This bill will kill thousands of jobs in Iowa’s ethanol industry, cuts housing for our Veterans and risks the economic recovery we have been on.

    “Our nation’s spending must be brought under control. However, I will not support doing so on the backs of the middle class while Wall Street hedge fund managers are given a free pass.”

    If the ethanol industry survives more or less intact, then Latham will turn out to be right (this bill doesn’t affect the RFS). If this bill kills thousands of jobs in Iowa’s ethanol industry, then Latham will have some explaining to do.

  • Very true!*

    *with qualifications

    The problem with any industry when we’re in a “wait and see” period is uncertainty of new development. Businesses and banks won’t make investments unless they know there is a good chance they will make their money back. If changes to the Renewable Fuels Standard creates uncertainty (which I think we all agree it does, due to our inability to agree on anything), then this is bad.

    I did a few searches and found some recent references to this uncertainty.

    From KTIV:

    Northey’s biggest concern is the fact that the other part of the renewable energy trifecta… biodiesel has taken a hit. The federal tax credit that supported it was allowed to expire leaving the industry very unstable. Northey:”I think it causes a nervousness within the whole renewable fuels industry.”:That certainly hurts a lot. That needs to change dramatically.”

    From the Des Moines Register:

    Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, said, “Now is not the time to add uncertainty and complexity to the energy tax debate.”

    I would always prefer legislators err on the side of passing a redundant amendment rather than leaving uncertainty.

    • maybe so, but

      industry trade groups have been known to exaggerate legislative threats to their existence.  It’s not surprising that the ethanol producers would be especially vigilant (or hyper-sensitive?) given the lapse of the biodiesel tax credit, which long had bipartisan support.

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