Cruz Battles Grassley Over Biofuels Boondoggle

Even at a 15 percent mix, ethanol can damage current automobile engines…

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Ted Cruz/Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC)

(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) Two generally conservative U.S. senators, Republicans Ted Cruz and Chuck Grassley, are at odds over a big-government program requiring motor fuel to be mixed with increasing percentages of “biofuels” such as ethanol.

Cruz, of oil-producing Texas, is a critic of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), but the veteran Grassley of Iowa, the nation’s leading corn-producing state, is a big supporter of it.

Corn is by far the most-used source for ethanol in the United States.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires that biofuels be increasingly mixed into the overall fuel supply in such a way that its national consumption rise from its then-level of less than 5 billion gallons all the way to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

As the U.S. motor fuel consumption level in 2016 was 143 billion gallons, this means that by 2022 nearly a full quarter of the nation’s fuel supply must be made from biofuels.

Even at a 15 percent mix, ethanol can damage current automobile engines.

While ethanol, unlike gasoline, is biodegradable, and its use is considered “carbon neutral” for overall levels of “greenhouse gases,” it actually produces substantially more ground-level ozone and total pollution.

For these reasons and others, Cruz is an outspoken advocate of modifying the RFS.

Most specifically, he wants to force a reduction in the price of a type of “credit” that companies can buy in lieu of meeting the increasingly burdensome RFS.

Last week he used a “town-hall-style event” in front of cheering workers at a now-bankrupt Philadelphia refinery to escalate his criticism of the current system – and thus, in effect, to heighten the conflict with Grassley as well.

The owners of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery – the largest on the East Coast – blame the RFS for the bankruptcy, and Cruz largely echoes that contention.

He said that the credit system, “part of this RFS, is broken.”

Referencing the refinery workers in attendance and others across the country, Cruz said that “This is about jobs…good union jobs, jobs that provide for your families, that provide for your kids….The working men and women in this country, you should have a federal government that is standing with you rather than fighting against you.”

Playing hardball in his effort to force a change in the fuel credit system, Cruz has placed a “hold” – a parliamentary maneuver – blocking the nomination of an Iowan, Bill Northey, to be undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation at the Department of Agriculture.


Charles Grassley/Photo by Gage Skidmore (CC)

Grassley, a sponsor of Northey, fired back.

“Every independent study shows the PES bankruptcy was due to management decisions that did not work out, not the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Grassley said in a statement. “It sure looks like PES management and its private equity owners are scapegoating the RFS to distract from their own failings, which have risked the livelihoods of more than a thousand workers.”

Conservative groups long have complained about the RFS.

Jordan McGillis of the Institute for Energy Research wrote in December that it is “costly, unnecessary and corrupt,” on multiple fronts.


Nicolas Loris of the Heritage Foundation notes that despite the use of punitive tariffs against foreign-produced biofuels that raise prices for U.S. consumers, the U.S. still actually imports more biodiesel than it exports – meaning the mandate supports more foreign jobs than American ones.

Even the left-wing Sierra Club opposes the RFS, saying that it amounts to “the degradation and destruction of native grasslands in the name of energy production.”

Despite their bitter feud over biofuels, Grassley and Cruz haven’t always been at odds.

In 2013 they co-authored key gun-related legislation, unfortunately filibustered to death by Senate Democrats, that would have provided funding for school safety, mental health, and gun-crime prosecutions.”