In Iowa, Jeb Bush thinks we need more mandatory ethanol blending

Jeb Bush hasn’t given up on Iowa yet, even though recent polls would indicate that Iowa has largely given up on him. And if you’re looking to score a quick headline among Iowans, there’s almost nothing better than speaking up in favor of government mandates dictating the blending of ethanol into regular fuel. Bush was at it again this week, trying to have it both ways in a Republican party which largely rejects such mandates in general and the Renewable Fuel Standard in particular, but includes members in Iowa who insist that King Corn must rule. It’s a delicate dance to say the least. (Des Moines Register)

Jeb Bush faulted the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to provide “clarity” with the updated ethanol mandate released on Monday, but was generally supportive of the levels prescribed.

The Republican presidential candidate has targeted 2022 as the year in which the Renewable Fuel Standard should be phased out. The RFS mandates the blending of specific amounts of biofuels each year and is a sacred cow in Iowa, where corn and ethanol production is a major business.

“The amount is growing, which is good,” Bush said during a campaign stop in Waterloo. But, he added, “it’s not to the full amount, so people here probably aren’t as happy as they would’ve been.”

Bush was responding to an announcement from the EPA on Monday regarding the new minimum amounts of ethanol which Uncle Sam will require producers to blend into the nation’s gasoline supply for next year. As usual, the volume went up, but not as much as Iowans wanted.

The EPA said refiners will be required to blend 18.11 billion gallons of renewable fuels in 2016, an increase from the agency’s 17.4 billion gallons proposed in May, but well below the 22.25 billion target set by Congress in 2007. The increase largely reflects rising gasoline consumption tied to low pump prices and does not mean more ethanol would be added to each gallon of gas…

“I am extremely disappointed that the EPA’s final decision failed to follow the renewable volume levels set by Congress,” Gov. Terry Branstad said in a news release. “Unfortunately, today’s decision shows the lack of interest in providing consumers choice at the pump, creating jobs and increasing incomes in rural America, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

In some ways the new levels weren’t nearly as bad as they might have been. Bush was lending a sympathetic ear to the corn lobby’s complaint that ethanol blending targets set by the Democrat controlled congress in 2007 were not met. The totals went up, but not as much as liberals envisioned when they first wrested control of Congress from the GOP and went hog wild (excuse the Iowa pun) on the ethanol bandwagon.

Back to the subject at hand. It’s not that I suddenly think Jeb Bush is going to be in contention for the nomination (or at least to win Iowa) at this point, but it’s bothersome to see him attempting a transparent dodge where he gets to have it both ways. He’s been called out on the RFS before and said that he believes it should be eliminated. But he sets a “target date” for doing that in 2022. Conveniently enough, that would be after he’s won his second term in the White House were he to become president. (Funny how that works, eh?) But in the meantime, he’s out in Iowa complaining that the mandates didn’t rise fast enough for next year and that we didn’t manage to reach the limits dictated by the Democrats eight years ago. Which party’s nomination are you running for again?

We only have a couple candidates left who have been rock solid on this issue… Cruz and Fiorina. Carly is basically swamped near the bottom of the polls, but Ted Cruz has been rising. Here’s the lesson we can take away from that blip in the statistics: The guy who has been most strongly against the ethanol mandates and the RFS is the one who is currently surging in Iowa and challenging Trump. Maybe we’ve been giving the corn lobby too much credit for their power in the Iowa caucuses lately. They’re still influential, but it looks like their power may be waning.