After the Iowa AG summit, I expressed some disappointment in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s answers on ethanol subsidies and the Renewable Fuel Standard. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one who had some questions about it. During a recent conference call, the first question Walker received was on the RFS and why his position on the subject had changed. According to Walker, he’s been consistent all along.
Scott Walker freely admits that he has shifted to the right on immigration over the past two years, aligning himself with the GOP base, but the Wisconsin governor was adamant Monday night that he has not also flip-flopped on ethanol.
On a telephone town hall meeting sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots, the all-but-declared Republican presidential candidate insisted that, when he spoke out against ethanol mandates during his 2006 run for governor, he was specifically referring to state-level standards, not federal ones…
“From our standpoint, our position is consistent,” Walker replied. “I talked about not wanting a mandate in Wisconsin as governor. We do not have one. I do not support one. I have not enacted it. I’ve kept it out of the state of Wisconsin. What I said in Iowa was … I think we need to phase it out, but I don’t approve of putting in new mandates.”
If your position on ethanol mandates (among others) is based on allowing states to undertake the task themselves, that’s one thing. It’s never a good idea in the long term, but as long as it’s the voters of the state making the call and they are willing to live with and pay for the consequences, then that’s up to them. But, as Politico notes, during his last campaign Walker ran ads criticizing such mandates at both the state and federal level.
So we have a couple of statements issued in a matter of two weeks which are rather hard to resolve. On the one hand, Governor Walker has said that he would like to phase out the RFS “over time” since you can’t do it overnight. But in Iowa, he also said he would be open to keeping it in place “indefinitely” to help out farmers. I’m not sure how indefinitely meshes with eventually phase out. But even the “eventually” part is troubling because when I hear politicians invoke that particular language I can’t help but feel like the concern being raised is having lip service paid to it and not much more.
To be clear, this isn’t some sort of blanket indictment of Walker. I still find much to like about the man and I already know that I’ll never find a candidate who agrees with me on 100% of the issues. But energy is a big one for me and mandates are just bad news. I hope we can get some clarification from Governor Walker at a later date and find how precisely how he plans to structure the EPA and approach this question and related subsidy issues if he is the nominee.