Conservatives understand that they will never get a presidential nominee who agrees with them on every issue. And given the recent history of nominating progressives to the highest honor of the party, almost anyone would represent an improvement. However, coming off the heels of Obama’s imperial presidency, is it too much to ask for candidates to oppose a scheme using the boot of government to force individuals to purchase a bad product – all for the purpose of enriching parochial interests?
No, we are not talking about Obamacare, although it would be nice for every candidate to publicly declare his or her intention to repeal every word of the law. The issue at hand is the Renewable Fuels (“ethanol”) Standard.
Amazingly, only one – Ted Cruz – candidate was able to speak with intellectual clarity against this statist mandate. Speaking at an Iowa Ag summit over the weekend, Cruz said the following about repealing the mandate:
I recognize that this is a gathering of a lot of folks where the answer you’d like me to give is ‘I’m for the RFS, darnit;’ that’d be the easy thing to do,” he said. “But I’ll tell you, people are pretty fed up, I think, with politicians who 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.
Sadly, other candidates gave incoherent answers as they sought to balance their pandering between Iowa agriculture interests and the conservative base. Much like his conversion on immigration, Walker flipped on the ethanol issue now that he is campaigning in Iowa. And Jeb Bush has always supported the mandate – brought to you by his brother. Christie also expressed his support for the mandate. Rand Paul was not in attendance at the forum. Hot Air has a great roundup of quotes from some of the other candidates backing the ‘Obamacare of energy.’
Here is Scott Walker’s response:
In general, on any issue, I’m someone who believes in a free and open market,” said Walker. “But…right now we don’t have a free and open marketplace, so that’s why I’m willing to take that position.
The notion that there is no free market in energy and that ethanol is the under-dog in need of anti-liberty mandates is farcical. The government has created a reality through the RFS that 4 out of every 10 rows of corn harvested is now being used for fuel. And Walker thinks they don’t have enough market access?!
It’s bad enough to subsidize an odious and ineffectual use of food and fuel. It’s downright indefensible to mandate that corn be used in our engines. And it’s even more egregious to continue the ethanol mandate after a decade of tail winds over competitors brought to you by the federal government. If ethanol is such a good use of food and fuel then it should be able to stand on its own two legs, especially with the decade-long head start.
In reality, ethanol represents a terrible use of food and fuel and that is precisely why they need the most powerful tailwinds fueling its existence – a federal mandate. According to a study cited by the Heartland Institute, families are forced to pay $2,055 more for food every year because 40% of the corn crop – the antecedent of the food chain – is used for fuel. A study from PricewaterhouseCoopers found that restaurants pay $18,000 more per year.
In this sense, ethanol is not “just one issue.” It cuts to the core of what conservatives are looking for in a party leader. We are looking for a candidate who can explain to voters in plain language how liberal policies raise the prices of vital goods and services and how free market policies will benefit their bread and butter interests. What better opportunity to harness than promising to repeal the ethanol mandate?
Unfortunately, for every candidate but Ted Cruz, this was a lost opportunity.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.