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Editorial: Tentative support for the renewable fuel standard

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MARCH 09, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Iowa Ag Summit took place this past weekend, in which Republican presidential hopefuls came to discuss all things agriculture as well their stances and opinions on other issues.

Although the event was supposed to be bipartisan, it was attended almost entirely by members of the GOP. The nine potential candidates discussed topics ranging from immigration to international trade, but it was clear the main event was ethanol and the renewable-fuel standard.

That standard is a regulation issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, mandating producers of motor fuel use a certain amount of renewable fuel in production. This standard is especially important for the production of ethanol, a corn-based fuel, and by extension Iowa as a state, because it is the No. 1 producer of corn and ethanol in the country.

Although some of the candidates could not say that they definitively agree with continuing the renewable-fuel mandates, it was clear special attention had to be placed on the issue, prompting methodical choices of rhetoric and conditional support.

Given the general lack of GOP enthusiasm toward subsidies and any instance in which the government plays too strong a role in the growth of a specific industry, it is interesting to note the measured endorsement of the renewable-fuel standard offered up by the candidates. The standard response on the standard and ethanol mandates was to recognize “how important ethanol has become” and that it “creates jobs in small-town rural America,” as former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said.

Given the audience, the caution in addressing ethanol and the standard is understandable, and one would only hope that the candidates aren’t merely pandering to the crowd when giving support to continuing the standard. Possible candidates Jeb Bush and Scott Walker have been critical of ethanol in the past but announced support of the fuel at the summit.

There are numerous reasons one wouldn’t support the use of ethanol and the accompanying mandates imposed by the renewable-fuel standard. For some candidates, the reasoning is ideological and stemming from a belief that the government should have limited involvement in business, such as the case of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who stated he doesn’t believe “Washington should be picking winners and losers.”

More than anything the candidates should have seen this summit as an opportunity to announce their intentions and give potential voters the opportunity to see their stance on an issue that would greatly affect their lives here in Iowa. It is better to be disliked for being honest about one’s policies than it is to gain acclaim by deceiving people and telling them what they want to hear. You can only get so far on half-truths and false promises, and the road to the White House is a long one.

Hopefully, the candidates that expressed support for the renewable-fuel standard weren’t just full of hot air.


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