cobs of corn

The current and past presidents of Iowa Renewable Fuels Association were able to chat with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday, asking for his endorsement of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and ethanol. IRFA president Brad Albin and past president Walt Wendland approached Romney and put him on the spot while an associate filmed (watch it below). Romney's response? "I do support the RFS and ethanol."

Albin works for Renewable Energy Group and Wendland with Golden Grain Energy, both of which are biofuels production companies in the state. They approached Romney at the Koch family farm in Van Meter, IA, where Romney was speaking about his agriculture policy goals.

IRFA's slogan is "leading Iowa into the 21st century's bio-refining economy," and the association brings together ethanol and biodiesel producers to promote and support the industry. The industry is dependent on the federal RFA, and looks like it's gaining support from both the Romney and Obama campaigns. Gaining traction in Washington is difficult these days, especially when the amount of corn used as a gasoline additive is lambasted by leaders in the United Nations who are worried about volatile global food prices and drought conditions.

There's another hurdle the IRFA and other biofuels advocacy groups have to get over: public support. There are thousands of flex-fuel vehicles on American roads these days (made by General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler), but it has yet to gain widespread awareness and support from consumers as an important alternative fuel.

Flex-fuel vehicle owners need questions answered: Can you go as far on a tank of E85 as you can on gasoline? Why do the levels of ethanol blend vary widely in different gas stations? What's the real price differential between gasoline and ethanol? So far, drivers don't seem to be impressed enough with ethanol, or biodiesel, to demand government support for the alternative fuels or to make sure they're gassing up with it.