When we learned the disturbing news that President Trump and EPA chief Scott Pruitt had bent the knee for Chuck Grassley and the rest of the King Corn contingent on the Renewable fuel standard, it seemed that the status quo had won out. Despite the fact that diesel prices were predicted to shoot up immediately as a result and the preposterous, artificial market for RINs (Renewable Identification Numbers) spiked, the administration seemed to have taken a firm stand on the subject. So we’re stuck with this objectionable pile of crony capitalism, right?
Maybe… but maybe not. At least not yet. The President and the ethanol lobby may consider this a dead issue, but it seems that nobody told the congressional Republicans who don’t hail from corn country that the fight was over. One prime example is Virginia House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R – VA 6). He has assembled more than five dozen of his colleagues to go public with a statement that the RFS has to at least be curbed. And the language they’re using isn’t exactly subtle. (Washington Examiner)
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and more than 60 other lawmakers voiced strong opposition to the nation’s ethanol mandate on Wednesday in a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.
“The combined effects of this ethanol mandate have created a hidden tax on every American,” the Virginia Republican and dozens of other lawmakers from both parties wrote. “Simply put, in its current state, the [Renewable Fuel Standard] has run out of gas.”
The letter argues that none of the policy goals that the mandate sought to achieve when it was passed in the 2005 energy law has been met.
“By diverting 35 percent of the corn harvest to fuel additive, the RFS has raised the cost of livestock production, increased food price volatility and insecurity, decreased fuel efficiency, damaged small engine equipment, hurt the environment, and chipped away at household budgets.”
All of the activity isn’t taking place in the House, though. Over in the Senate there’s someone who continues to act as a thorn in the side of the ethanol lobby. That person is Ted Cruz and he’s using the power of the “anonymous hold” to block at least one Trump nominee over this massive giveaway to those who prefer to burn food rather than eat it. (The Daily Nonpareil)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, shows no signs of lifting his blockade of Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey’s nomination to a position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And another ag department nominee — ex-Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis, a former conservative radio talk show host from Iowa — is facing renewed opposition to his nomination to serve as the department’s chief scientist amid revelations that he encouraged a campaign adviser to foster ties with Russian officials.
Cruz and eight other senators from refinery-heavy areas have requested a meeting with Trump administration officials over the Renewable Fuel Standard, which are federal mandates that they say are driving up costs for refiners and putting thousands of jobs in their states at risk.
Cruz correctly describes the RFS situation as unsustainable and points out the danger of continuing to exert downward pressure on the rising American fossil fuel industry. This has an undesirable effect on both job growth and the prices consumers pay at the pump.
But there’s some political tit-for-tat going on here as well. You’ll recall that when the EPA was sending up trial balloons about scaling back the ethanol mandates in the RFS, Joni Ernst blocked another EPA nominee until Trump and Pruitt agreed to go all in on ethanol mandates and the rest of the demands the corn growing states use to hold the GOP hostage. Cruz is showing that two can play at that game as well.
The media is obviously choosing to portray this as a fight between fossil fuel states and “the good guys” who want renewable energy. That plays well on the left, but not so much with the GOP base. If Grassley, Ernst and the rest want to play hardball, this fight could easily boil over into the midterms.