(See update at bottom of post)

You know, it was just the other day when I was telling you about how effective Ted Cruz has been in Iowa in spite of his opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard and related mandates by the government, particularly in the energy sector. I seem to recall using words like brave, or perhaps heroic. It was, I concluded, a potential game changer in terms of the power of King Corn and the ethanol lobby.

Well, there’s a sucker born every minute and apparently this time it was me.

During a bus tour stop in Sioux Center, Iowa last night, Senator Ted Cruz expressed support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) through 2022.

Responding to a question from an ethanol investor from Iowa about whether he would allow the landmark energy program to continue through its current expiration in 2022, Sen. Cruz responded by expressing support for the RFS through 2022.

And it wasn’t just the RFS. Oh no! Ted came out with a promise to break the blendwall. Limiting the total blending of ethanol to 10% is the only thing keeping the flood gates partially shut on this mess as it is. What are you talking about Senator Cruz?

At first I thought such a stark reversal of the Senator’s previous position on the RFS might be a mistake. But just to make sure I’d gotten the message, Cruz penned an editorial for the des Moines Register further clarifying his position.

By this point in the campaign, many readers will have seen the furious coordinated effort being waged by Democrats and big-money lobbyists, who are together spending hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to convince Iowans that I oppose ethanol. Their charges are utter nonsense.

One of the reasons that Iowa’s own Rep. Steve King — a ferocious advocate for Iowa farmers — is enthusiastically supporting my campaign is because, although I oppose government subsidies, I am a passionate supporter of a free and fair energy marketplace…

The lobbyists’ sole focus is on the RFS, because as long as there is a federal government mandate, Washington remains front and center. Under a Cruz administration, that would change.

I know there are going to be some staunch Cruz defenders who will try to spin this as being “what he said all along” but that’s thin gruel at best and it’s simply not true. Here’s what Cruz had to say less than a year ago regarding the RFS.

Don’t expect U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to shuck his opposition to the ethanol-friendly Renewable Fuel Standard when he comes to the Iowa Ag Summit next weekend.

“Ethanol producers in Iowa have demonstrated that there is a real demand for their product and that demand will exist without the federal government getting in the middle,” Cruz said in an interview during the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Oh, and about that blendwall thing? This is the same Senator Cruz who last year was opposed to there being a minimum amount of ethanol blended in our gas.

Cruz has opposed the federal regulation that sets a minimum amount of renewable energy that must be blended into motor fuel. Iowa officials of both parties, including Gov. Terry Branstad, have insisted the standard is vital to the industry and have bitterly opposed a move by the Obama administration to roll it back.

That’s the exact opposite of what he’s saying now.

To be clear, some of what Cruz is saying here absolutely is what he’s been saying from the beginning: no subsidies, level playing field and all of that. I agree! But that’s not the question at hand. The real issue here is absolutely the RFS and the fact that after having previously said that he opposed the standard and would work to eliminate it, he’s now taking the same “talk out of both sides of your mouth” approach that Christie, Jeb Bush and – eventually – Carly Fiorina took. (I’ll leave Trump out of this since he sold out on the RFS and ethanol as soon as the first question was tossed to him.) So Ted wants to just “extend” the RFS to 2022, eh? How convenient that he wants to “phase it out” but that wouldn’t happen until two years after he won his reelection were he to become President. And this stand on the blendwall is an absolute pander to the ethanol lobby of the worst sort.

If you read the rest of his editorial he goes into some of the worst and most deceptive marketing pablum put out by King Corn in support of knocking down the blendwall.

If allowed to reach the market, mid-level ethanol products like E25 or E30 could prove quite popular with American consumers, who are increasingly concerned with fuel economy. Ethanol is an effective fuel additive because it increases octane and decreases harmful tailpipe emissions.

That, my friends, is complete and utter crap. Please pardon my French, but I’m extremely disappointed right now. I’ve been saying for a long time that Cruz has very likely been the candidate who has impressed me the most this season and one of the biggest things in his favor was his position as the lone voice in the field standing strong against the ethanol lobby. I don’t know how many more votes Ted thinks this is going to pull in the Iowa caucus, but I sure hope he thinks it’s worth this level of a sell out. And don’t let them tell you that because some of what he’s saying here is the same as his previous stand that “he’s been saying this all along.” He’s on the record many, many times with the best, most conservative stand of anyone in the race right now on the ethanol question in terms of the specifics which really count and now he’s done a 180 degree flip flop on the key points. I hope he didn’t strain his neck with that bit of acrobatics.

UPDATE: (Jazz)

Since this has produced even more than the predictable firestorm on social media (and in the comments) let’s expand on this a bit. First of all, it’s true that the statement from ARF was misleading in its wording, particularly in saying “support” the way they did. It’s worth noting that other writers, such as Robert King at the Washington Examiner had gone whole hog on the RFS “support” thing and have since updated to specify that the Cruz campaign is calling for a phase out over five years. Fair enough, but I will remind those demanding a “retraction” that I already noted in the original article here that Cruz was talking about a five year sunset. What’s the difference? The difference is that I clearly compared this position to the one Ted Cruz has taken with us at various stops, including CPAC, where there was no talk of a phase out. He said repeal and received well deserved accolades for it. And if you don’t think that Cruz has been doing that, don’t take it from me. Take it from Amanda Carpenter who is pushing back on this the hardest.

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There’s a big difference between a repeal and a phase out, as I said. Take from that what you will.

But beyond the details of ending the RFS and the how and the when of it, I also correctly noted that there was a big change on the blend question. At that same CPAC appearance (along with others) Ted Cruz agreed with many ethanol lobby opponents that blended gas causes problems in certain engines and the E10 blend mandate should be removed, not just because mandates are bad, but because ethanol can be problematic, and so people could easily get ethanol free gas if they wanted it. Now go read that editorial that Cruz published in Iowa again and pay attention to the part where he talks about ethanol being an effective additive.

Because of this EPA wall, the market is currently dominated by low-level ethanol blends, such as “E10” (10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline). That has prevented mid-level ethanol fuels, such as E25 or E30, from reaching American consumers.

If allowed to reach the market, mid-level ethanol products like E25 or E30 could prove quite popular with American consumers, who are increasingly concerned with fuel economy. Ethanol is an effective fuel additive because it increases octane and decreases harmful tailpipe emissions.

For those trying to twist my words, I never said he was calling for an E25 mandate, but that he was suddenly very flattering toward it as an option. If you don’t want to admit that this is a very different tone and essentially a quick spin around the dance floor with King Corn, I don’t know what to tell you.

And finally (thank God) I hope we can just drop the idea that any criticism of someone’s favorite candidate on a single issue amounts to a declaration of war or a call to drop him out of the race. Any regular readers who are being honest know that I’ve published one favorable article after another about Ted Cruz and come as close to endorsing him as I have any of the candidates. Should I remind you that I began this article with a link to an extremely glowing piece I published about Ted Cruz on this very issue way back… oh, when was it again… oh, yes. YESTERDAY. If you want to pretend that I’m now suddenly some sort of fifth column agent working to destroy Ted Cruz, I’m not going to take you seriously.

While this is a big, pet issue of mine (take a moment to browse through the endless list of articles I’ve written on ethanol) it doesn’t change the fact that Cruz remains close to the gold standard for conservatives among the candidates currently in contention. While I’d rather see the tougher stance on ethanol that Ted Cruz has taken in the past, this would absolutely not be enough to drive me away from supporting him or cause me to refuse to vote for him. It’s one issue of many and he’s right on far more of the rest of those issues than his competition. But when he makes a change like this on a topic of great interest to me (and it is absolutely a change) then I’m going to speak up about it. How much weight you give the issue is obviously up to you.

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