Iowan Leaders Send Veiled Threats To GOP Presidential Candidates Like Perry, Cruz Over Ethanol

By Bettina Sofia Viviano

Most everyone knows that the Iowa Caucus is a prominent, influential vote that starts the Presidential nomination process, and is the first indicator of how a candidate will fare. However, not everyone understands why placing well in Iowa is so critical to a candidate’s success.

In an article entitled “Why Is Iowa So Important?” Josh Clark states:

“The simplest answer is that Iowa is the first state in the nation to have a chance to show its support for candidates. Sen. George McGovern, the Democratic contender in the 1972 election, explained the significance of Iowa like this: “Iowa is terribly important. It’s the first test in the nation, where we get any test at all” [source: University of Iowa].

That test comes from real, everyday voters. The level of support a candidate receives in Iowa gives a reasonable indication of how they will perform with the rest of American voters. If middle-American Iowans support a candidate, then that candidate has a chance with the rest of the nation. The results from the Iowa caucus tell a candidate whether his or her platform is desirable. It is the first chance for a campaign to find out if its message is affecting voters — should the campaign stay the course or change tactics? And the Iowa caucus is so important that some candidates bow out of the race if they do poorly in Iowa.

A strong showing in Iowa also sends a message to the national party leaders. Each party seeks a strong contender for the White House, and a good response from Iowans helps cement a candidate’s chances to win the national nomination. Republican Party also made Iowa first in the 1976 election, and since then, Iowa’s importance has grown each election cycle.”

So, now we know the “why” behind Iowa’s prominence. However, there is an element involved in this race that has become more and more concerning in recent years, and that is the importance of a candidate’s support of Ethanol, Iowa’s largest revenue source.  Seemingly, Iowa is becoming a single-issue state, where a candidate can only win if he/she supports the Ethanol Mandate.

Since 2005, Congress has mandated that alternative fuels, primarily corn-based ethanol, progressively be added to gasoline and diesel and that the EPA annually adjust the targets originally set by Congress as needed.  But, who does this mandate really benefit? In “The Ethanol Mandate Proves the Government Is a Poor Central Planner,” Nicolas Loris and Katie Tubb state:

“Only politically connected groups benefit from the RFS. A handful of organizations stand to benefit from the RFS such as corn and soybean growers, ethanol refiners, plant-based ethanol producers, and the politicians who get their votes. In fact, it appears that the string of delays for the 2014 standards occurred because the agriculture and ethanol lobbying arms were unhappy that the EPA originally proposed to cut the ethanol requirement for the first time in the mandate’s existence. But the RFS is a clear case of concentrated benefits to a handful of connected industries at the expense of the rest of America and the environment.”

Further, Loris and Tubb go on to confirm that a majority of Americans have caught on to the fact that the Ethanol mandate does more harm than good:

“The Renewable Fuel Standard hurts drivers, eaters, taxpayers and the environment. Because of the RFS, Americans have to pay more for fuel than they normally would without the mandate, and the fuel they put in their tanks is less energy efficient because ethanol isn’t as energy dense. Further, the increased demand for corn for use in ethanol increases the price of corn by as much as 68 percent, which affects not only Americans but the world, because corn is a staple food in many countries as well as a staple feed for livestock. In addition, ethanol has proven to be harmful to smaller engines.

Although environmental organizations initially supported the mandate to reduce oil use and greenhouse gas emissions, many now argue that the ethanol mandate is poor environmental policy. When radical environmentalists and free-market groups, the UN, motorcyclists, ranchers, anti-poverty groups, restaurants and others agree on something, maybe it’s time to listen.”

In 2012, I was part of the “Perry Strike Force”, a group of volunteers that traveled from 26 states across the country, to support Presidential candidate Governor Rick Perry. By all accounts, from the “boots on the ground,” grassroots teams, Perry had the most support of any of the candidates, and certainly the most enthusiasm. So, when Perry wasn’t doing well, magically I found this pamphlet from Iowans Fueled With Pride.  I was appalled by this, and it has bothered me ever since.

Quite simply, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul were the only three singled out for not supporting Ethanol subsidies, and therefore had little more than a prayer in Iowa. In 2012, Ron Paul ended up placing third after Ethanol panderers Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, but it’s important to note that Paul’s third place win likely has more to do with the large amount of Democrats voting for him. Every other candidate had expressed support for Ethanol, which is difficult to understand from any Conservative candidate, if you know the truth about Ethanol, and what a negative it is for the food supply, car engines, the water supply, and its minimal effect on energy costs in the first place.

In the article entitled “Ethanol: Another Episode In Scamnation” David Kotok states:

“Please permit a personal polemic. I’ve pounded tables for years about ethanol as a massive scam. Our national policy diverts 40% of the U.S. corn crop (14% of the global corn crop) in order to produce a fuel that requires almost as much energy to produce as it supplies. Our ethanol mandate has starved millions of people; I’ve watched it with my own eyes in many countries in my travels. A 2011 study by the National Academy of Sciences estimates that, since 2007, the expanding U.S. biofuels subsidy has fueled 20%-40% of the increase the world has seen in the prices for agricultural commodities. In a country like Guatemala, that means that tortilla prices double and egg prices triple.
Ethanol damages engines, too — ask any user; I’ve seen it myself throughout the US, and Popular Mechanics concurs.

Corn ethanol has poisoned our planet while it has lined certain private and politically connected pockets with billions. It has succeeded in raising our costs, for minimal net energy gains.”

So, how can it be that there is such a conflict of interest between the need for exposure and success in the state of Iowa, for a Presidential candidate, while that success might be threatened by his/her support of Ethanol, or lack thereof? Just this week in the article “Two Branstads Vow To Educate Presidential Hopefuls On RFS,” it is clear that the 2016 hopefuls should feel they either have to toe the line, and support Ethanol subsidies, or face losing this high profile caucus:

“Asked about Republicans such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry who have called for getting rid of the fuel mandate, (Governor) Branstad predicted they may come around.

‘I’m not convinced that Gov. Perry can’t be educated on this issue. He’s a farmer from Texas, and I know he comes from an oil state, and he’s a friend of mine. He’s done great things for economic development in Texas. I think he’s got a chance to come here and learn,’ Branstad said.

Other Republican potential presidential candidates have ruffled Iowa feathers, including Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who in 2013 called for repeal of the RFS, saying its ‘impossible mandates are driving up the costs of fuel, food and goods.’”

So, in other words, Governor Branstad of Iowa is suggesting that the GOP hopefuls “come around” and support Ethanol. I’m not necessarily implying that this is a direct threat to either Governor Perry or Senator Cruz, but it does seem that Branstad is encouraging them to see things his way. The problem with that, particularly in the case of principled candidates like Perry and Cruz, is that they are men who don’t pander for votes. So, is it fair for them to lose Iowa, because they stand by their principles and beliefs?

USA Today isn’t even hiding the veiled threat that GOP candidates better line up behind Ethanol.  Consider the title of this article:  “Iowa Gov. Branstad fires ethanol warning shot to 2016 hopefuls”

“Presidential candidates who don’t support the renewable fuel standards haven’t done well in the Iowa caucuses. Rick Perry, the former Texas governor who is eyeing another presidential race, didn’t support these standards and came in fifth in the 2012 caucuses.

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, who are also considering running against next year, supported the RFS and finished one-two in the 2012 caucuses.”

Sounds like a threat to me.

And, if Americans want to know what Iowans truly think of candidates and their support of Ethanol, one has only to look at this article from the Des Moines Register entitled “Iowa could be Battleground Ethanol in 2016”:

“Iowa will be Battleground Ethanol in the 2016 presidential race if a couple of seasoned political strategists have their way. Their underlying message: Candidates who don’t support a federal renewable fuels rule have a history of losing races in corn-intense Iowa.

A coalition of Iowans led by Democrat Derek Eadon and Republican Eric Branstad intends to spend the next few months bringing presidential hopefuls up to speed on why they believe the Renewable Fuel Standard is crucial to the economy in Iowa and the nation. After that, they’ll make sure Iowa voters know which side each candidate has taken.

‘Just the fact that Obama has been talking about lowering the RFS has already hurt the Iowa economy,’ said Derek Eadon, Democrat strategist and state director for Obama’s 2012 campaign.

‘The next president is going to have a lot of say over the RFS and what the EPA does,’ said Branstad, who is one of Gov. Terry Branstad’s sons.
Eadon and Eric Branstad argued that candidates who support the RFS tend to do well in Iowa. Republicans Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, who both favored it, finished at the top of the Iowa caucuses in 2012, while those who opposed it didn’t fare as well, including Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.”

Meanwhile, in an article dated just last week, the Hill states that “Senators introduce amendment to end ethanol mandate”. According to the article:

“Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) want the bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline to also eliminate the corn ethanol blending mandate.

The senators introduced an amendment Friday that would remove the mandate to blend normal ethanol into gasoline but preserve other renewable fuel mandates, including those for biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol. The standard ethanol mandate is effectively a corn ethanol mandate, the sponsors said.

‘It drives up gas prices, increases food costs, damages car engines, and is harmful to the environment,’ Toomey said in a statement.”

So, here is the dilemma, as more and more evidence appears that shows Ethanol is not a great choice for Renewable Fuel, and as Iowa becomes more and more important in choosing a GOP Presidential candidate, how can this be a fair and democratic situation? I would say to Governor Branstad that it might be better not to pressure candidates on a single issue, regardless of its importance to Iowa – especially when what is truly critically important to America, and the world, is to elect a strong, true Conservative President.

Iowa either needs to stop pushing voters to vote against principled, Conservative candidates who do not pander for ethanol votes, or America needs to make Iowa less preeminent in choosing candidates.

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