There is a lot at stake for Iowa’s agricultural and renewable fuels industries on the night of February 1st. Whatever happens on caucus night, Iowans will get what they deserve.
The Register’s Iowa Poll released last week shows a “solid majority” of likely Republican caucus goers support the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) requiring ethanol blended fuel through 2022. No surprise there. http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/politics/iowa-poll/caucus/2015/12/17/iowa-poll-caucusgoers-favor-ethanol-mandate/77370882/
There are 42 ethanol refineries spread between the Missouri and Mississippi, consuming over a billion bushels of corn and employing over 73,000 Iowans who earn over $5B in wages that are spent in Iowa’s economy. So yeah, that would get the support of 61% of Republicans.
Yet, sitting atop the same Iowa Poll is the renewable fuels industry’s greatest threat – Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz’s campaign is financed by the oil and gas industry. Now, I’m not one for name calling, but if the ethanol industry was located in Whooville instead of Iowa, the oil folks would be stuffying our collective Christmas trees up the chimney leaving nothing on the walls but some hooks and some wire.
Ok, so maybe Santa would say I’m given to name–calling on occasion…
But this should be Iowa’s collective concern. Its not just that Cruz doesn’t support ethanol. He gives the same answer a number of candidates give about not wanting to pick winners and losers in the free market. Fine. But Cruz has actually introduced legislation to repeal the Renewable Fuels Standard. Not let it sunset in 2022, but end it early. Yet what caucus goers should find offensive is at the same time he would end the renewable fuel standard, he supports $65 Billion of taxpayer subsidies over the next ten year for the oil and gas companies.
Now, before you leap to your keyboards to email the Register saying “Rants is in the bag for Carly Fiorina”, let me just say “I’m in the bag for Carly Fiorina.” However, with the many different lanes within the GOP primary, I don’t expect that someone would leave Cruz to support Carly – and I’m not suggesting that you do. But if Ted Cruz is your flavor of Republican candidate, why on earth are you not supporting Rick Santorum?
The former Pennsylvania Senator, and winner of the 2008 caucuses is arguably just as conservative as Cruz on issues to people of faith. Four years ago he earned the endorsement of the Family Leaders Bob VanderPlaats and last I checked had not changed any of his positions. As a person who watched both debates this past week, its clear Santorum has a far more thoughtful approach, and better understanding of how to win the war with ISIL than Cruz’s overly simple “carpet bomb” one-liner. To top it off, Santorum’s position on ethanol is decidedly pro-Iowa and earns a “Good” rating from America’s Renewable Future; a coalition of companies and organizations working to protect the Renewable Fuels Standard.
Iowa’s political power brokers Grassley, Branstad and now Senator Ernst have spent much political capitol to foster this industry and the resulting jobs and economic benefit for Iowans. Yet in just one night, Iowa Republicans could scrap decades of effort. Can you imagine Texas Republicans voting for a presidential candidate who had committed to ending the special tax treatment for the oil industry? There is no doubt the results of this caucus will have economic consequences. If you’re reading this from within a metro area thinking this doesn’t impact you – you don’t realize how intertwined our urban and rural economies are despite years of diversification, nor how our property tax or school aid formulas ties us together.
Iowa Republicans have many choices for President – but if we aren’t parochial enough to protect 73,000 jobs in this state, then we deserve exactly what we will get.