The Burlington Hawkeye
First, a series of Associated Press stories criticized farmers for diverting Conservation Reserve Program land into crop land to capitalize on high corn prices. The articles also noted more corn was grown for fuel rather than food.
Then on Friday, the Obama administration proposed tweaking a six-year-old law that would reduce the need for nearly 3 billion gallons of ethanol and other biofuels blended into gasoline in 2014 than planned.
Ethanol advocates denounced both.
Their message will be front and center today when Growth Energy, the trade group that advocates on behalf of the ethanol industry, will have a board meeting in Burlington. Before that, though, several high-profile board members will speak at a public briefing at the Capitol Theater at downtown Burlington.
Deb Green of West Burlington-based Big River Resources said 130 people have registered for the event, slated to begin at 9 a.m., but she noted interested people can still attend, even if they aren't registered.
"We'll pack 'em to the rafters if we have to," she said.
The briefing features retired Gen. Wesley Clark, NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, biofuels entrepreneur Jeff Broin and other board members. Big River Resources CEO Ray Defenbaugh will serve as master of ceremonies.
Due to limited parking at the Capitol Theater, a shuttle will operate from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. to and from Memorial Auditorium.
Board meetings are rotated throughout the country, and when Defenbaugh had the opportunity to get the November meeting, he seized it. It was his idea to have some of the board members speak. Tickets to seminars featuring speakers as prominent as those on the Capitol stage today sometimes fetch several hundred dollars. Today's event, though, is free.
Austin Dillon, Childress' grandson, was scheduled to attend, but Saturday night he won NASCAR's Nationwide points title. Corresponding appearances will take him away from southeast Iowa. His brother, Ty Dillon, will appear instead. Ty Dillon competes in Racing World's truck series.
Door prizes will be given away today, including $100 fuel cards and Austin Dillon-autographed die-cast NASCAR race cars.
Of the others, Clark was the supreme allied commander of NATO during the Kosovo War from 1997 to 2000. Four years later, he dipped his toe in politics, making a brief overture seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
Expect him to tout ethanol as an excellent fuel additive, a robust job creator and an all-around benefit to the environment.
He will be helped by Broin, recently voted the No. 1 Brave Thinkier in Agriculture by Top Producer magazine.
Broin, 48, founded Poet, the country's second largest ethanol producer. His new venture is pioneering efforts to commercialize cellulosic ethanol, fuel made of material other than grain or sugar. It plans to open a plant early next year in Emmetsburg capable of producing 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol.
Several of the board members are flying into Southeast Iowa Regional Airport this morning for the briefing and board meeting. Their stay will be short, as most will leave this afternoon.