Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz supports a five-year phase-out of the so-called “Renewable Fuels Standard” that sets annual ethanol production levels for the country. Last night in Cherokee, Cruz said Iowans are being “snookered” about the RFS.
“You know, a lot of corn farmers, a lot of people in Iowa have been led to believe by the lobbyists that the RFS is the ‘holy grail’, but the RFS ensures that Washington remains front and center,” Cruz said Tuesday in Sioux Center. “It ensures that corn farmers have to go on bended knees to politicians in Washington, seeking their regular support and mandates.”
Under current federal law, the Renewable Fuels Standard will end in 2022. Cruz co-sponsored a senate bill in 2013 that would have triggered a five-year phrase out of the RFS. According to Cruz, a better answer is improving market access and Cruz promises as president he would end federal regulations that effectively prevent refineries from making higher blends of ethanol, like E15 and E30. Cruz has been trailed this week in Iowa by America’s Renewable Future, a pro-ethanol group that’s headed by Eric Branstad, the oldest son of Republican Governor Terry Branstad, and Cruz is taking issue with their efforts.
“Now I recognize, particularly as our campaign has gained more and more support, as we’ve seen conservatives uniting behind our campaign, that a coalition of lobbyists and Democrats have gotten together and are spending an awful lot of money trying to convince you that somehow Ted Cruz opposes corn farmers,” Cruz said in Sioux Center. “I’ll tell you the straight truth: it is utter nonsense.”
Eric Branstad issued a written statement today saying Cruz “started the Caucus process” by calling for an “immediate” repeal and has been swayed by Iowa farmers, but a spokeswoman for Cruz says the senator first called for a gradual phase out of the RFS in 2013. On Tuesday night in Sioux Center, the former manager of an ethanol plant cornered Cruz on the issue.
“I came tonight because I wanted to get the straight scoop,” the man said.
The man was Bernie Punt of Sioux Center, who is now an executive with an ethanol production company.
“I’m getting two stories about the Ted Cruz campaign. One pretty well-circulated story is stay away from him because he’s opposed to the RFS,” Punt said. “I had a call today from a very good friend of mine, very trusted source that says: ‘You’ve got to get the facts on Ted Cruz. We’ve met with him a few times and he’s going to tell you a different story.'”
Cruz offered this answer to Punt.
“I support ethanol. I support biofuels…but I also believe government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers, that it shouldn’t be Washington deciding one energy source over another, so in my view we should end all of the mandates and all of the subsidies,” Cruz said, to applause.
In March, during an agricultural forum in Des Moines, Cruz said ethanol has become a “major player in the industry” and demand for ethanol will continue without the federal mandate. Cruz said if refiners and the oil industry try to block market access, the ethanol industry should file an anti-trust lawsuit.
(Additional reporting in Sioux Center by Dennis Morrice of KLEM Radio)