Buttigieg sells his soul to King Corn to win some votes

Tis the season when presidential primary candidates descend on Iowa like a plague of locusts and talk incessantly to anyone who can’t run away fast enough. One of the prime targets is the state fair, where otherwise innocent fairgoers are badgered relentlessly while waiting in line for a corn dog. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is no exception and he was there making his pitch about what he’s going to do to help “rural Americans.” (That’s code for the white people in flyover states the Democrats are forced to occasionally pander to when they’d rather be in the big cities on both coasts.)

So what’s Mayor Pete got up his sleeve to help the farmers? He’s going to use the power of the EPA to bankrupt refineries and boost the price of ethanol, of course. (Market Watch)

Presidential hopeful and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg climbed on the Iowa State Fair soapbox Tuesday. Ahead of the key stopover in the early caucus state for the 2020 race, the candidate released his ideas for helping rural Americans. The proposal focused on internet access and supporting satellite college campuses, and it had a climate component.

Buttigieg addressed ethanol and other biofuels: “Pete will stop the abuse of ‘small refinery’ exemptions established by the current administration, which allows fossil fuel giants to skirt their obligations to blend biofuels,” the plan reads.

I suppose this can’t be considered much of a surprise. All the Democrats need to find a way to break through the static in Iowa and try to score an early victory in the primaries to build some momentum. And that means pandering to the ethanol lobby to win the love of the corn farmers. (In the interest of fairness we should note that President Trump did the exact same thing in 2016 and continues to do so to this day.)

What Buttigieg is talking about is a subject we’ve discussed here at length. The Renewable Fuel Standard contains mandates for refineries to blend specific amounts of ethanol into gasoline. Older, smaller refineries that lack the capacity to do this are forced to buy shockingly expensive Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credits or face government penalties. These costs have already bankrupted one refinery in Pennsylvania and threaten to take down others.

Their only path of relief is to obtain a waiver from the EPA, available for those that can demonstrate financial hardship. The Trump administration has gotten somewhat better about issuing these waivers, though many more are needed, and this has angered King Corn mightily. So what Buttigieg is promising is to put an end to those waivers, basically sending the smaller refineries off to sink or swim.

In other words, Pete Buttigieg is acting like every other generic politician in the field, rather than being some sort of new breed of candidate. But having made that promise, he will now have to explain to the voters in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Texas and other states with a lot of refineries what happened to all of their jobs. Best of luck with that, Pete.