Texas Senator Ted Cruz was in Philadelphia yesterday, but he wasn’t there for the cheesesteaks. He was holding a rally at Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the owners of a major northeastern refinery which the EPA managed to bankrupt this winter. Arguing on behalf of those who are being put out of work because of EPA mandates, particularly the Renewable Fuel Standard, Cruz made the case for less government licensing and more flexibility in U.S. energy development, leaving some to wonder if this was actually a campaign stop for an upcoming election bid. (Dallas News)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz led a rally Wednesday at a refinery in Philadelphia that declared bankruptcy a month ago, railing against “Wall Street speculators” profiting off the federal ethanol mandate and casting himself as a blue collar champion.

“We can save these jobs,” he promised. “This is about jobs…good union jobs, jobs that provide for your families, that provide for your kids….The working men and women in this country, you should have a federal government that is standing with you rather than fighting against you.”

The venue and timing of the town hall-style event were unusual. It wasn’t a campaign rally, though Cruz’s delivery, the packed tent, and the ovations that punctuated his remarks left a similar impression.

The Washington Times reported on Cruz’s trip in advance and had some of his prepared comments. In particular, he’s highlighting the problems with the market which has grown around the sale and trade of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs). This government generated scheme is what largely drove the Philadelphia refinery into bankruptcy.

“Can you imagine running a business where you spend more than double your payroll to write a check not to buy anything, not to pay anybody, not to buy any supplies, but simply to purchase a government license, so to speak, that is crushing and it is destroying jobs,” he said recently during a Senate floor speech devoted to ethanol. “With respect to Philadelphia Energy Solutions, just now in bankruptcy, we’re talking about 1,100 jobs here. These are blue-collar, working-class jobs, the kind that are the backbone of our economy, the kind that keep refineries going.”

Cruz wants relief for oil and gas producers and at the same time he’s been going to war with the ambassadors of King Corn, primarily from Iowa. They’re fighting back, however. Politico reports that at the same time Cruz was making his pitch to curb the RFS and provide exemptions from the ethanol mandates, the GOP of Iowa was issuing calls condemning him for blocking the appointment of Bill Northey to the USDA. He’s the agriculture secretary for Iowa and Cruz has had a hold on his nomination while looking for leverage in the ethanol debate. The Iowa GOP was not terribly subtle in suggesting that if he has any future campaign plans which might bring him there to visit, he needs to rethink this strategy.

The Iowa Republican Party challenged Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to lift his hold on USDA nominee Bill Northey, the state’s agriculture secretary, or risk losing support among voters. Cruz has long held up Northey over a dispute related to the Renewable Fuel Standard. “Sen. Cruz has entertained this political position for too far long, and it’s becoming increasingly harmful to both Iowans and our agricultural industry at large,” Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a statement. “I highly encourage Sen. Cruz to get back to doing what he does best — promoting the conservative agenda — particularly if he is to remain in good standing with Iowa conservatives should he return here in future endeavors.” The Iowa GOP sent a letter to the Texas Republican, who is pushing the case for independent oil refiners, Pro’s Catherine Boudreau reports, and it unanimously adopted a resolution calling for an end to “the political points he is attempting to gain in an election year.”

Imagine that. A charge of attempting to gain political points in an election year against a Senator who is not only up for election but facing a primary challenge as well. Who would have thought such a thing? But seriously… Cruz is working on an issue which is near and dear to the hearts of Texans and residents of other oil and gas producing states. Is there an element of campaigning in all of this? Obviously, but it’s also an important cause. The RFS should be eliminated entirely, but if we can’t manage that we should at least be able to get it scaled back a bit.

Unfortunately for Ted Cruz, that puts him in the sights of the ethanol lobby in Iowa. And if he is still harboring any ideas of a 2024 presidential run (or even a 2020 primary challenge), Iowa is clearly threatening to hold his feet to the fire.