RFS Roundup: Ethanol Lobby Losing its Grip on Presidential Hopefuls

March 11, 2015

Last weekend was the Iowa Ag Summit, in which several presidential hopefuls trekked to Iowa to discuss agriculture policy and forge inroads with the state's kingmakers in advance of the influential Iowa caucuses. The event was hosted by Bruce Rastetter—an Iowa ethanol baron who has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal farm subsidies and made millions off of market distortions created by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). With this broken policy rightly on the chopping block, it’s no surprise that the biggest issue on the table was whether or not would-be candidates would throw their support behind the RFS, despite the widespread economic and environmental damage it has caused. Did presidential hopefuls pander to Iowa ethanol barons or stand up for principle and good policy? Below is our round-up of news coverage from the event.

Iowa Agriculture Summit Splits GOP 2016 Field on Subsidies, Immigration (Washington Post)

In Short: “Fuel subsidies became a point of contention as Rastetter tried to draw support from a new generation of presidential hopefuls. While many of the prospective candidates said they backed the subsidies, the event was notable for the number of dissenters, with Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) being the most explicit, saying the Renewable Fuel Standard should be repealed.”

Ethanol Loses its Potency in the Iowa Caucuses (Boston Globe)

In Short: “For years presidential candidates had a choice: They could either pledge unwavering support for federal programs propping up the corn-based ethanol industry or they could lose the Iowa caucuses, the first contest in the presidential nomination season… And now there are signs that ethanol’s grip on the nominating process has begun to slip.”

The Iowa Ag Summit: 10 Takeaways (Politico)

In Short: “The politics of ethanol have shifted enough over the last 15 years that several Republican presidential candidates felt comfortable – at an agricultural summit in Iowa Saturday – expressing their disagreement with special government supports for corn growers.”

The GOP’s King Corn Problem (Grist)

In Short: “Nationally, Republicans view other federal mandates — like one for health insurance (Obamacare) — as apocalyptic symbols akin to draping the sun in sackcloth. Rastetter leveraged Iowa’s outsized status in our political process as a means to run candidates through his ethanol gantlet.”

Scott Walker Just Blatantly Pandered to Iowa's Corn Farmers (Mother Jones)

In Short: “As the Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker has resisted the federal government's support of the biofuel industry. But last weekend, within the borders of corn-rich Iowa—the state upon which Walker appears most intensely focused for his all-but-announced presidential bid—he sang a different tune.”

Op-Ed: End the Ethanol Rip-Off (New York Times)

In Short: “Given the high cost of the ethanol tax, the word ‘boondoggle’ seems too polite. Let’s call it what it is: a rip-off.”