Cruz's gutsy call on phasing out ethanol and other energy mandates

Ted Cruz targeted energy subsidies in a Des Moines Register op-ed, as he repeated his long-held position that ethanol mandates should be phased out.

It used to be considered political suicide to advocate the elimination of these mandates in a state heavily dependent on them.  But Cruz remained true to his position, taking the heat while probably winning over other voters who support a more free-market approach to energy production.

The Hill:

In a Des Moines Register op-ed Wednesday, Cruz said he would look to “phase out the Renewable Fuel Standard, end all energy subsidies, and ensure a level playing field for everyone,” a move that would eventually end the mandate that requires refiners mix ethanol into their gasoline supplies. 

“My view on energy is simple: We should pursue an 'all of the above' policy,” he wrote. “We should embrace all of the energy resources with which God has blessed America: oil and gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, and biofuels and ethanol. But Washington shouldn’t be picking winners and losers.”

Cruz has previously said he would look to end the mandate by 2022, establishing a five-year phase-out during his first year in office.

Cruz leads Republicans in Iowa polls ahead of the state’s presidential caucuses next month, but his ethanol policies could hurt him in the state, which leads in the fuel’s production.

The Texas senator has previously co-sponsored a bill to end the ethanol mandate immediately. Last spring, he sponsored a phase-out bill, and he says that plan is the best way to support fuel producers.

“I do believe there should be a gradual phase-out because there has been investment-based expectations,” Cruz told an audience in Cherokee, Iowa, on Tuesday night. 

“The lobbyists are trying the best they can to snooker the people of Iowa and convince the people of Iowa that a government mandate is the only way for ethanol to survive. The problem is, the government is blocking ethanol. They are trying to convince you the mandate is the best way to go.”

Ethanol groups have looked to pressure Cruz on the issue. They welcomed his comments Wednesday. 

“Farmers and rural communities across Iowa are going to be encouraged by Sen. Cruz’s remarks,” America’s Renewable Future state director Eric Branstad said in a statement. 

Cruz's "all of the above" energy policy is politically courageous, and the elimination of government subsidies for all forms of energy – including oil and gas – would be a boon to the industry.  The current glut of oil will not last forever, and once supplies tighten again and the price of fuel rises, other forms of energy production will become more attractive.  With government out of the business of picking winners and losers, competing firms will rush to bring new technologies to the market, making efficient and cost-effective energy production a reality. 

It won't be easy to phase out these mandates.  Ethanol has a huge lobby in Washington, and farmers in several states depend on government forcing the refining industry to add certain levels of the fuel to gasoline.  But perhaps all the issue needs is good leadership – something Cruz is apparently eager to supply if he's elected president.

If you experience technical problems, please write to