Speaking at the 10th annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit on Tuesday, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad recalled how the ethanol and biodiesel industries have grown and how the federal Renewable Fuel Standard over the past decade has helped Iowa become the leading state in production of homegrown biofuels. The governor pointed out how the renewable fuel industry is providing good jobs for 73,000 Iowans, has created better income for farmers and is reducing America's dependency on foreign oil.
Branstad ended his speech by reminding Iowans to attend the statewide presidential caucus on Feb. 1, and he urged voters to "support a candidate for U.S. president who supports the RFS. It's critically important that we restore leadership in the White House that will encourage EPA to do the right thing regarding setting volume requirements for the RFS. We need to elect a president who will restore the original intent of Congress for a robust RFS for America."
Electing an anti-RFS candidate could be very damaging to Iowa
At a press conference after his speech, the governor told reporters he would like to see Texas Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz defeated in the Iowa caucus. Cruz is one of 11 Republican candidates and three Democrat candidates running for president. The Iowa caucus is the nation's first in the selection process of caucuses and primaries held to determine who will be the eventual Republican and the eventual Democrat candidate in the November 2016 presidential election.
Branstad, a Republican, said Iowans would make a mistake in supporting Cruz, the current front runner in polls of likely Iowa Republican voters. Cruz has been a staunch opponent of the Renewable Fuel Standard, which sets the annual amount of ethanol and biodiesel that must be blended in the nation's fuel supply.
No doubt about it, the RFS is economically important to Iowa
"Ted Cruz is ahead in the polls right now," said Branstad. "What we're trying to do is educate people in the state of Iowa how important this election is and how important the RFS is. Senator Cruz is the biggest opponent of renewable fuels. He actually introduced a bill in 2013 to immediately eliminate the RFS. His campaign is heavily financed by Big Oil. So we think once Iowans realize that fact, they might find other candidates attractive because he could be very damaging to our state."
Branstad said Cruz "hasn't supported renewable fuels and I think it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him." Asked if he would want to see Cruz defeated, Branstad said "yes."
Cruz has been telling Iowans he supports a phase-out of RFS
In 2013, Cruz co-sponsored legislation introduced by Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso that would have repealed the RFS immediately if it would have been passed into law. Cruz sponsored his own legislation in 2013 and 2014 calling for a 5-year phase out of the RFS. While campaigning in Iowa in recent weeks, Cruz has been repeatedly asked about his ethanol position and has said he supports a phase-out of the RFS over a 5-year period. Cruz also says he doesn't think government should be "picking winners and losers in the energy sector."
Branstad said Tuesday at the press conference that Cruz is "diametrically opposed to what we really care about. We shouldn't support someone who is opposing things that are critically important to the economic well-being of our state."
Santorum, Fiorina, Trump and Huckabee spoke at Iowa summit
Iowa Congressman Steve King, a Republican who has endorsed the candidacy of Cruz for U.S. president, is a strong supporter of the RFS. King called governor Branstad's comments "very disappointing to me." King defended Cruz's plan, saying it would "ratchet down" the RFS while opening the motor fuel market "to greater use of higher blend renewable fuels."
King said that attacks on Cruz will benefit another Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who is running in second place behind Cruz at the top of the pack of candidates. Trump spoke to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit later in the day. Trump says he supports the RFS. Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum, another speaker at Tuesday's summit, also warned Iowans about siding with a candidate who doesn't support the RFS. "You will kill the RFS and Iowa will have its fingerprints on the weapon," said Santorum, who supports the RFS. Republican presidential candidates Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee also spoke at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and both say they support the RFS.