Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on Wednesday cast his view on a federal ethanol mandate as a lonely but principled one, saying that Washington should not be in the business of picking winners and losers.
He also likened the riskiness of taking such a position in Iowa to someone proclaiming allegiance to the Denver Broncos in New Hampshire — though he stressed that was a hypothetical.
“I’m getting hit, literally, with millions of dollars of attacks on exactly this issue,” Mr. Cruz said at a town hall event in Exeter, New Hampshire.
The 2016 GOP presidential contender said at a recent agriculture summit in Iowa, one of the questions was on the federal ethanol mandate.
“And really, the purpose of the summit was to get every candidate there to kiss the ring of the ethanol mandate,” he said. “And every candidate there, including several who had opposed the mandate in the past, did a 180 flip and said, ‘I am for ethanol forever.’ Except me.”
“And what I told folks there is I said listen, I support ethanol,” Mr. Cruz said. “I support every fuel source. We ought to pursue all of the above — God has blessed America with rich and abundant energy resources.”
SEE ALSO: Donald Trump: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad ‘really does not want Ted Cruz to win’
“But it shouldn’t be Washington picking winners and losers,” he said, pointing out that he has filed legislation to phase out the federal Renewable Fuel Standard over five years.
Mr. Cruz has indeed been criticized for his stance on the issue, notably by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad this week. The RFS requires a certain level of corn-based ethanol to be blended into gasoline sold in the U.S., and Republicans are often caught between opposing a federal mandate and supporting a policy of great interest to farmers in Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation caucuses.
“Now listen, when I said that, I didn’t know if they would boo and throw tomatoes,” Mr. Cruz said. “You know, that’s like coming up to New Hampshire saying, ‘I’m for the Broncos.’ [It’s] just not a safe course of action.”
“I’m not actually for the Broncos, just to be clear — that was a hypothetical,” he quickly added. “Go Patriots.”
“But I didn’t know if they’d throw rotten tomatoes at me or what,” he said. “I went on — I said look, I understand a lot of people here would rather I said something different. That you’d rather I say I’m for the ethanol mandate forever and ever, amen.”
“But every one of us has seen politicians tell one group one thing and tell another group another thing,” Mr. Cruz said. “And we know what happens: They go to Washington, and they don’t do what they say.”
“And I said, with me, what I’ve tried to do in office has been two things: Number one, tell the truth,” he said. “And number two, do what I said I would do.”
He also said he told people in Iowa that lobbyists and Democrats want them focused on the ethanol mandate “because it keeps Iowa dependent on Washington. It keeps you coming back every year and paying the lobbyists so that they get rich, because it’s Washington politicians setting the rules.”
Mr. Cruz said he would get rid of an EPA rule that limits the percentage of ethanol allowed in gasoline.
“If ethanol competes in the marketplace and expands its market share, you can end up with a bigger share of the market,” he said.