Ethanol advocates are on the defensive as political support in Washington has shifted away from the industry in the past few months. Some of those advocates have decided to put a positive spin on ethanol for the hundreds of political reporters that will be in Iowa this week to cover the Republican Straw Poll.
Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw says the idea is to give reporters unfamiliar with biofuels a chance to learn how the industry benefits the country.
"We thought, hey we've got like 700 reporters coming to Iowa to cover the events around the Iowa Straw Poll on Saturday," Shaw said. "So let's provide them with some opportunities to see first-hand what modern agriculture and modern renewable fuel production is all about."
The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association has invited reporters to visit a multi-generational farm to learn how ethanol has affected the bottom line. There's also a tour of an ethanol plant and a state-of-the-art cattle feeding operation near Nevada that feeds ethanol by-products to livestock. Reporters also will have an opportunity to drive a vehicle powered with 85% ethanol fuel.
Shaw says the participation hasn't been too good so far.
"I'm a little disappointed there has not been as much interest as we had hoped," Shaw said. "Now we know that they have lots of responsibilities so we certainly didn't expect the vast majority of these people to be interested but we thought you know if we could pick off 10 or 20 folks that would say 'Hey, I'll take an hour out of my day to actually learn a little bit about what I'm covering' that that'd be good."
Shaw holds out hope that more reporters will take advantage of the opportunity to learn about ethanol ahead of Saturday's Straw Poll in Ames.