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Touring Project LIBERTY

By Staff | Sep 1, 2014

DARON WILSON, general manager of POET/DSM, left, leads a tour of Project LIBERTY for Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa; Kyle Gilley, POET’s senior vice president of public policy and corporate affairs; and an unidentified grassley aide. In addition to touring the new cellulosic ethanol plant, Grassley visited with POET employees.

By JANE WHITMORE

“mailto:jwhitmore@emmetsburgnews.com”>jwhitmore@emmetsburgnews.com

EMMETSBURG – U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, toured POET-DSM’s Project LIBERTY last week.

“I won’t be able to come to the grand opening,” Grassley said, “so they invited me here to see it.

“When I go to a business place to tour, I always talk to the employees.”

POET EMPLOYEES invited with Sen. Charles Grassley, left, when toured the plant. Grassley said employees asked good questions, mostly about ethanol and the possibility about retaining the Renewal Fuels Standard.

The senator spent half of his time at POET talking to the employees and answering questions. They talked mostly about ethanol.

“We talked about the possibility about retaining the RFS,” said Grassley. “It’s in EPA, where it’s been since last November.

“They could have issued a rule around Feb. 1. We think we’ve made some impact, I can’t prove that, but by the delay and the delay and the delay – now I think it’s going to be delayed until after the election.”

The RFS is the federal Renewable Fuels Standard, created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, establishing a mandate for the amount of transportation fuel volume that must contain renewable fuels. In August 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency received petitions from the petroleum industry and refiners requesting a partial waiver of the 2014 applicable volumes under the RFS. The EPA has yet to rule on that petition.

Grassley said he did not know if the RFS would be the original 13 billion gallons or, if they don’t do anything, it would go to 14.4 billion gallons.

“That’s what they’re supposed to use this year (14.4 billion gallons), or somewhere in between,” he said. “We don’t know even when we talk to the director.

“We’ve even talked to people at the White House.”

The last employee to speak said he was born in Emmetsburg and glad to live here.

“He said,” Grassley related, “‘just look at the good jobs we’ve been creating.’

“I said, ‘you just said one-fifth of what I generally end a speech with on ethanol.’

“It’s good for the jobs in rural America that you never thought you’d have.

“It’s good for agricultural income.

“It’s good for the environment.

“It’s good for national security, because energy is very essential to protect our country and help the military.

“It’s good for balance of trade because you keep exporting.

“So I always end my speech: Everything about ethanol is good, good, good. There’s no negatives about it.”

One of a kind

“When they keep using the phrase ‘one of a kind’ – ‘the biggest’ – or ‘the second biggest’ – it’s pretty impressive, coming from rural America,” Grassley said. “The foresight of people, not only for ethanol from grain, moving to cellulosic – it’s phenomenal – very, very impressive.

“Just the capitalization of it, the ability to get that done – to even do all this building is pretty impressive, and then the scientific work that goes into the process.”

Grassley said he encourages people to think back to the 1970s.

“You and I would never think that we were going to be able to run our cars off of stuff made from corn,” Grassley said, “Here we are, doing it big time.

“You would have been laughed at if you’d have said we’re going to make it from corn stalks, and leaves and stover and all that stuff.

“It’s just kind of unbelievable. Seeing is believing.”

Grassley said in 1984 he bought a 1964 Oldsmobile.

“I had it for about 20 years,” he said, “and I always burned the 10 percent (ethanol) in it. Somebody was telling me that a car made in the 1980s, ethanol was ruining it.

“Don’t tell me that stuff, I burn it in a 1964 Oldsmobile.”

Looking at ethanol

“Our biggest problem in Washington is ignorance about ethanol,” said Grassley. “It’s difficult to fight ignorance.

“One of the best examples about ethanol is the number of people that pronounce it, ‘eethanol.’

“A few years ago, the biggest uproar about ethanol was, we’ve got $7 corn because of a drought, you shouldn’t be using corn for ethanol, we’ve got to use it for feed.

“We were planting 93 million acres of corn. Why are we planting 93 million acres instead of 85 million acres? Because of ethanol.

“If we didn’t have ethanol, we’d be planting 85 million acres of corn and if we had a drought we’d still have $7 corn.

“I probably made people mad if I tried to tell people that, but sometimes you have to explain that to farmers, livestock farmers.

“That’s part of the problem we have defending ethanol.”

Project LIBERTY’s grand opening is Wednesday. Public tours begin at 9 a.m. with opening presentation at 11 a.m.

Lunch and tours will follow.

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