Iowa politicians debate biodiesel

By Erin Voegele | September 20, 2010
Posted Oct. 20, 2010

A recent political debate between two Iowa congressional candidates has shed light on their respective views of the biodiesel tax credit. During the Oct. 15 event, which was broadcast on Iowa Public Television, incumbent third district Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-Des Moines) spoke out in support of the tax credit while challenger Brad Zaun (R-Urbandale), a member of the state senate, said he would not support reinstatement of the credit.

According to video and a transcript of the debate posted to Iowa Public Television's website, Zaun said that while he thinks the biodiesel industry needs to grow, he does not support reinstatement of the expired tax credit. In response, Boswell argued that Zaun has not connected success in the biofuels industry with a decreased dependence on foreign oil. "[Biodiesel] is a stand-up business that we've got to continue to support and be sure we can make it solid, and we definitely should be supporting those biodiesel plants that are sitting out there idle. We can do better," Boswell said.

Zaun responded to Boswell's remarks by saying he respectfully disagreed. "When we as tax payers invest $100,000 to $600,000 for each new job created, that's excessive," he continued. "And, I want that industry to survive, and I want it to flourish." However, during the debate Zaun offered no insight into possible alternative actions that could be taken in order to support biodiesel production in Iowa.

It is currently unclear how Zaun reached his $100,000 to $600,000 estimate of taxpayer support for each biodiesel job created. Biodiesel Magazine was unable to reach him for clarification. The Iowa Biodiesel Board has also been unable to verify where Zaun's estimates have been sourced. According to information posted to the IBB's website, Iowa's biodiesel industry supported 2,900 permanent jobs and contributed approximately $470 million to the state's GDP in 2009.

"We are disappointed and concerned to hear that Brad Zaun does not support the federal tax incentive for biodiesel," said IBB Executive Director Randy Olson. "The incentive expired last year, and the impact on Iowa's industry has been devastating. Nearly half of the state's 15 biodiesel plants have closed their doors or gone idle, and thousands of Iowans have lost jobs. Iowa was once the leading biodiesel-producing state, but our position as a national and worldwide leader in renewable fuels is in jeopardy. Our sincere hope would be that anyone who represents Iowa in the U.S. Congress would continue to fight for the biodiesel industry, and energy independence. Biodiesel is a bright spot in our state's economy, supporting green jobs and generating economic activity on the farm and beyond. It's also a vital component of our national energy security."

The IBB has requested a meeting with Zaun's office to discuss the impact of biodiesel in Iowa, and is hoping to shed some light on how vital the industry is to not only Iowa but the nation as a whole, said Olson. That meeting is currently scheduled for Oct. 25.
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