Feenstra and Virgil discuss the standard for renewable fuels

Both Congressman Randy Feenstra and Kevin Virgil, the Republican who is challenging Feenstra in next week’s primaries, agree that sustainable jet fuel made from corn or soybeans could be a huge boost to Iowa’s economy.

The candidates answered questions yesterday at a forum in Cherokee sponsored by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and KTIV. Feenstra said boosting production of sustainable jet fuel could quadruple production at ethanol and biodiesel plants in Iowa.

“If we say, ‘No, we’re not going to do it,’ I know California will. I know Texas will do that,” Feenstra said. “…We have to think long term. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. That’s easy to do. “Oh, we don’t want to do that.” Really and truly? Do you want to grow Iowa? We have the opportunity. It’s a huge opportunity.”

Virgil said the fuel has “great potential” for Iowa, but the federal tax credits that will become available require the grain to come from cover crop fields and other conservation measures.

“People in this room probably think that the carbon capture pipeline could be a great opportunity for us to qualify,” Virgil said. “…Let me tell you about Bruce Rastetter – the man behind Summit Carbon Solutions and… one of the biggest donors (to my opponent) – Rastetter has a contract with Honeywell to build a sustainable jet fuel plant in Louisiana.”

Virgil said he is generally against government intervention in the free market and that the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires ethanol and biodiesel production, should be phased out.

“As hard as it is for people to hear, we have to let the market do what the market does,” Virgil said. “…It’s having too much of an impact on our market right now and it’s causing a lot of disruptions that are causing farmers a lot of pain.”

Feenstra said the renewable fuels standard should be expanded, not ended.

“No one should get tax credits, right? But what if electric vehicles get them and the oil industry gets them but we don’t?” Feenstra asked rhetorically.

Ending the ethanol production mandate would “destroy the agricultural industry,” according to Feenstra.

“You either like agriculture or you don’t,” Feenstra said. “…We are either going to grow Iowa or not.”

Feenstra, a former senator from Hull, is seeking a third term in the US House of Representatives. Virgil is an army veteran and former CIA officer who owns a software company. In December, Virgil moved back to the farm near Sutherland where he grew up and in early January announced he was challenging Feenstra in this year’s GOP Primary.

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