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Ethanol TV spots take on big oil

By Don Davis

Forum State Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL -- The ethanol industry is fighting back against big oil by buying $2.5 million in national television advertising.

Gary Wertish of rural Renville, Minn., vice president of Minnesota Farmers Union, on Monday said that two years ago major oil companies conspired with grocers to blame the mostly corn-based ethanol industry with driving up food prices.

"We were being blamed for something that was big oil's fault," Wertish said, adding that high oil prices actually caused the price spike.

So Growth Energy, a national organization supporting ethanol, is buying commercial spots on national cable television news networks in spurts between now and the fall. Shows included in the buy are "Larry King Live" and "Fox and Friends."

Each of the six 15-second spots, which normally will run in twos, features a plain green background with simple words on screen, with a music background. Examples are:

• "No beaches have been closed due to ethanol spills: Ethanol, American's clean fuel."

• "Ethanol has not shipped a single job overseas: Ethanol, America's economic fuel."

• "No U.S. forces have been deployed to defend our ethanol reserves: Ethanol, America's independent fuel."

The commercials were unveiled Monday in Washington, D.C. and nine states, including Minnesota.

Ethanol is a plant-based fuel, mostly made from corn, that is mixed with gasoline. In Minnesota and many other states, ethanol comprises 10 percent of gasoline, although there also is an 85-percent ethanol known as E-85 that some vehicles can use.

"It's time the public got some simple facts about ethanol and these ads do just that," said DeVonna Zeug, Minnesota Corn Growers Association president and Redwood County farmer.

"Too often, ethanol's opponents have defined ethanol," she said, with ethanol lobbyists far outnumbered by those representing oil companies.

Richard Eichstadt of Poet Energy's Preston ethanol plant complained that ethanol has been unfairly attacked. "It is just plain common sense that we have to do something."