Leaders of the nation’s largest ethanol producers are in Omaha today to attend the first-ever annual meeting of EPIC, the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council. EPIC executive director Tony Nuernberg says the industry quickly banded together to counter a well-funded public relations campaign against the renewable fuel. She says the ethanol industry is going to have to stick together as it continues to grow. Nuernberg says she’s “excited about the future and the unity of the industry, but it is very important that we remain unified and we continue to work together.”
According to Nurenberg, the efforts of EPIC members to push-back against ethanol’s critics is paying off. She says she’s getting a lot less questions about the so-called food-versus-fuel debate. She says more people are wondering about the high price of gasoline, opening an opportunity to talk about the benefits of ethanol.
The ethanol industry is now producing enough liquid fuel to offset U-S oil imports from Ethiopia, according to Greg Krissek, director of Governmental Affairs for ICM, a Kansas-based firm that designs and builds ethanol plants. Krissek is also EPIC’s public policy expert. He says the key immediate focus for the ethanol industry in Washington D-C is getting the regulations in place to implement the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard approved by Congress in December.
Krissek says the new farm bill extended the 54-cent per gallon tariff on imported ethanol, in addition to the tax credit to refiners who blend ethanol, only through 2010. Krissek says that means the next Congress, the next President, and ethanol producers, will all have key questions to address. He says those questions include: What type of framework do we have? Is the current one working? Should it be radicallly modified or tweaked?
The EPIC meeting is being held at the Qwest Center in Omaha through today, after opening Thursday. The keynote speaker was Dr. Robert Zubrin, an engineer who runs an aerospace research and development firm in Lakewood, Colorado.