The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Hill: Trump Calls for Higher Ethanol Mandate, Seeking Iowa Wedge Issue with Cruz

As caucus night approaches, we probably should have seen this coming:

Donald Trump said Tuesday that federal regulators should increase the amount of ethanol blended into the nation’s gasoline supply.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, Trump, a real estate mogul and the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ought to follow the ethanol volumes Congress set in 2007.

“The EPA should ensure that biofuel … blend levels match the statutory level set by Congress under the [renewable fuel standard],” Trump said.

The move is clearly aimed at Senator Ted Cruz, currently neck-and-neck with Trump in polling less than two weeks before Iowa voters make their voices heard.

As National Review’s John Fund has noted, Cruz has taken a courageous stand in the face of Iowa’s King Corn: proposing a phased-out mandate over five years. The Texas senator has caught flak for changing his position in 2014, from an immediate end towards a phased end to the mandate. Cruz says that is designed to give the industry time to adjust to having to stand on its own feet.

Not that some in Iowa — including Republican governor Terry Branstad — are much in the mood for nuance:

[Trump’s] event came hours after Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) told voters in the first state to choose presidential candidates that they shouldn’t vote for Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), one of Trump’s most potent challengers.

Branstad cited Cruz’s opposition to continuing the ethanol mandate after 2022, saying Cruz is “heavily financed by Big Oil.”

Trump welcomed Branstad’s comment.

Cruz has “been mixed in the subject, he goes wherever the votes are, so he all of the sudden went over here, and then all of the sudden, he got slapped,” Trump said. “So it’s very interesting to see.”

Trump was generally very supportive of the ethanol law, saying he is “100 percent” behind the ethanol industry, a powerful force in Iowa.

“As president, I will encourage Congress to be cautious in attempting to charge and change any part of the RFS,” he said.

Would Trump be making this move if Cruz hadn’t caught him in Iowa? Trump’s calling card to this point has been “the candidate who tells it like it is,” and “the candidate who can’t be bought.”

But apparently that doesn’t apply to King Corn in the Hawkeye State.

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