Friday, May 30, 2008

Counterattack Against Ethanol Critics is Gaining Steam, Grassley Says

Renewable fuels advocates are fighting back against a multimillion-dollar campaign against ethanol funded by the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said this week that he's seeing increasing support for his battle against ethanol's detractors. "I think we're picking up some steam," said Grassley in a conference call with agriculture reporters this week. "Although I doubt if we've caught up with the steam that the grocery manufacturers have already established."

Grassley was referring to an elaborate anti-ethanol smear campaign, masterminded by Washington lobbyist firm Glover Park Group and bankrolled by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which was recently exposed in a May 14 article in Roll Call magazine. Glover Park's plan involved exploiting a world shortage of certain food grains while blaming ethanol production for the rise in world food prices.

According to Roll Call, Glover Park was hired for $300,000 to craft the anti-ethanol campaign, which the GMA hoped would involve "taking advantage of the 'extraordinary earned media opportunities' caused by rising food prices; mobilizing local food banks and 'other local opinion leaders in key states and districts'; and hiring 'trusted third-party experts' to document" the effect of ethanol incentives.

Glover Park created a plan to "obliterate whatever intellectual justification" exists for ethanol derived from corn, which would involve demonstrating to policy makers that "there is a political price to allowing ethanol policy to drive up the cost of food."

Mainstream media appeared to have bought the story hook, line and sinker. But Grassley pounced on the news in that Roll Call article, delivering a scathing speech on the Senate floor that he says has rallied renewable fuels advocates to redouble their efforts in defense of ethanol.

"I think maybe my speech on the Senate floor a couple weeks ago was the genesis," said Grassley. "We're finding some increasing support now."

Grassley said that the anti-ethanol campaign is still way ahead of the curve. "They were about a month ahead of us before we realized what they were trying to do. But I think you're going to find renewable fuels people and their allies start a counterattack."

Some reports have stated that as much as $15 million has been dedicated to the anti-ethanol campaign, with a $5 million contribution from the GMA and as much as $10 million kicked in by the American Petroleum Institute.

Grassley said he didn't know if renewable fuels advocates could offset that multimillion-dollar public relations assault. "But we hope to embarrass the grocery manufacturers out of it, because they're part of the food chain and they shouldn't be pitting farmers against consumers," said Grassley.

The video below is Grassley's May 15 speech on the Senate floor where he blasted the GMA and Glover Park Group.

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