Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) attended the Iowa Ag Summit over the weekend and stood alone among attendees in his outright rejection of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the ethanol subsidies that have a significant impact on Iowa’s agricultural economy. The Texas Senator appeared along with several other prospective 2016 Republican presidential candidates. Despite the obvious risk of opposing the RFS at an event sponsored by the agriculture industry in a critical early primary state, Cruz was unequivocal in voicing his opposition to the RFS and the crowd applauded his comments.
Many conservative groups have criticized the RFS as crony capitalism, also noting that it has failed to be the promised panacea to America’s dependence on foreign oil or reduce greenhouse gas emissions, plus the problematic corrosive effects that ethanol-blended gasoline can have on engines in automobiles and power tools.
According to the Wall Street Journal, recent record-high harvests in the Midwest have left corn farmers facing a surplus of corn and plummeting prices, increasing the motivation to seek to expand the market for ethanol. The issue has been a controversial one for years, as potential presidential candidates — especially Republicans — try to navigate between losing support in Iowa or being called a hypocrite for supporting corporate welfare. The television series The West Wing famously portrayed the struggle candidates face in an episode titled, “King Corn.”
Cruz was asked the critical question about the RFS right off the bat during his time on the main stage, the moderator saying that he wanted to “deal with the elephant in the room right away,” mentioning Cruz’s comments opposing ethanol subsidies at a recent Club for Growth event.
The Senator responded, “I support biofuels and ethanol. I think biofuels have a major role in the energy market and they’re going to continue to have a growing role.” However, Cruz continued, Washington should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. “When it comes to energy, I think we should have an all-of-the-above approach, but it should be driven by the market.”
Cruz then drew a broader analogy between his opposition to the subsidies and voters’ frustrations with politicians who say whatever they think will get them elected.
“Look, I recognize that this is a gathering of a lot of folks who the answer you’d like me to give is ‘I’m for the RFS, darnit,’ that’d be the easy thing to do,” said Cruz. “But I’ll tell you, people are pretty fed up, I think, with politicians that run around and tell one group one thing, tell another group another thing, and then they go to Washington and they don’t do anything that they said they would do. And I think that’s a big part of the reason we have the problems we have in Washington, is there have been career politicians in both parties that aren’t listening to the American people and aren’t doing what they said they would do.”
Cruz’s remarks drew applause from the audience and praise from a number of conservative media outlets. Joel Gehrke at National Review noted that Cruz had “managed to turn a disagreement with a crowd of Iowa businesses and farmers into an applause line,” and noted that the audience’s applause after his comments about the RFS gave Cruz “the warmest welcome so far” that day.
Hot Air blogger Jazz Shaw called the question of whether to support the RFS “a test of character for the nascent candidates on a matter of vital interest,” and praised Cruz’s strong and independent voice on the issue, describing his comments as a “potential game changer,” in his opinion:
I’ve expressed doubts in the past about the long term viability of Ted Cruz on the national stage, particularly given the horribly effective way the media has sold the “crazy wingnut” stories to the public. But this guy has demonstrated the kind of intestinal fortitude that is far too often lacking in GOP leaders, and he certainly showed those qualities once again in Iowa. Take this as a benchmark for the coming campaign.
Hot Air reached out to the Cruz campaign for comment, and was sent the following statement:
Ted Cruz is straightforward about what he believes, whether he is in Iowa, Texas, or Washington DC. We need more leaders who tell the truth about what they will do and the response to that kind of honesty is very positive.
Other potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates who attended the Iowa Ag Summit included Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas), Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin), Governor Chris Christie (R-New Jersey), former Governor Jeb Bush (R-Florida), former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas), and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania). Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Governor Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana), who join Cruz in wanting to eliminate the RFS, skipped the event, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.