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Rounds Cedes Ethanol Defense to Weiland

Last week Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland jumped in front of the ethanol issue and declared himself in opposition to the Obama Administration's flagging support for turning South Dakota corn into motor fuel. Weiland said the EPA, President Obama, and his own Democratic Party are caving to pressure from Big Oil, an impressive defense of South Dakota economic interests over party spin.

A week later, Marion Michael Rounds pauses between calls to his lawyers and EB-5 cronies and remembers he should be campaigning for Senate, too. He Facebooks from a Madison ag meeting to say Rick Weiland is right:

I share their frustration over the EPA's decision to scale back ethanol requirements in the Renewable Fuel Standard.

South Dakota business men and women invested significant amounts of money in the infrastructure to produce the ethanol needed to meet the standard. Now the EPA wants to change the rules midterm.

We should not allow them to pull the rug out from underneath Midwestern ethanol producers at this stage of the game. We need many different types of energy production. We need to make North America energy independent. Ethanol should play a role [M. Michael Rounds, Facebook post, 2013.11.18].

Note the difference in tone: Weiland comes out swinging, challenging the powers that be, including his own party leadership. Rounds wheezes milquetoasty pap about changing rules midstream, a position that disappears when we talk about the Affordable Care Act or any other program Republicans don't like. Rounds echoes the kind of dodgy response we hear when we ask budget hawks like Rep. Kristi Noem and Senator John Thune why we should keep spending money we don't have on porky projects like the Lewis and Clark water system.

Both Weiland and Rounds are angling for farm votes, perhaps at the expense of wise environmental and long-term economic sustainability. But at least Weiland is saying it like he means it. Rounds's response is cautiously, politically tuned and far from a firm defense of ethanol itself as good economic policy.


  1. Rick 2013.11.19

    Rounds is no friend to ethanol! He's the oil lobby's tool in Pierre and used his power as Governor to delay the spread of blender pumps around the state. The only thing ethanol supporters could expect from Rounds was a handy foot to trip them up when they needed a helping hand.

  2. Porter Lansing 2013.11.19

    Ethanol is bad for America, bad for our environment and will not help Weiland as much as an honest assessment would. One thing is for absolutely sure (think Jimmy Carter and the Russian grain fiasco) always lose in the end.

  3. Nick Nemec 2013.11.19

    From his earliest days in the SD Senate Mike Rounds was in big oil's back pocket. Don't forget his father Don Rounds was a long time oil industry lobbyist, lobbying the South Dakota State Legislature and all of state government on all manner of oil industry issues. Like a good son Mike Rounds never crossed his Dad.

  4. Cranky Old Dude 2013.11.19

    You're telling me there really is a Mike Rounds? I was beginning to think he was an elusive myth like Bigfoot and unicorns! I guess I will have to adjust my worldview to allow for the existence of such a creature...or will I? Has anyone actually seen candidate Rounds?

    If nothing else, ethanol has been good for the farm economy-so far. As was observed, the farmers usually end up getiing shafted.

  5. Garyd 2013.11.20

    Porter, if ethanol is bad for America, does that mean oil is good? What is your VIABLE alternative that can be used to replace oil?

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