4 GOP candidates tout support for renewable fuels
Fiorina, Huckabee, Santorum and Trump say they support federal mandate
James Q. Lynch
ALTOONA — Although eclipsed by Gov. Terry Branstad’s un-endorsement of GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz over his opposition to the corn-friendly Renewable Fuel Standard, four other Republican candidates Tuesday expressed support for the federal mandate.
Cruz was not at a Renewable Fuels Association summit in Altoona — campaigning in New Hampshire instead — when Branstad gave a quick and simple “yes” when asked by a reporter if Cruz should be defeated in the Feb. 1 Republican caucuses. Branstad instead encouraged Iowans to caucus for candidates who support ethanol and other biofuels that create jobs and markets for Iowa farmers as well as choices for motorists.
But he did not express an opinion on any of the candidates who were in attendance, including former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, businessman Donald Trump, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former tech executive Carly Fiorina.
Trump, when he spoke to the association, was appreciative of Branstad’s remarks.
“He’s a respected man and when he speaks people listen,” Trump said. He also paid the governor a backhanded compliment, saying Branstad “goes wherever the votes are.”
Santorum reminded the association he is the only one of the 2016 presidential hopefuls who voted for the fuel standard in 2005 and that this was his third appearance at the annual meeting.
An opponent of agriculture subsidies, Santorum said the RFS is about market access — not underwriting farmers. The nation was at war in Iraq in 2005 and “domestic production of transportation fuels was a high priority from national security point of view.”
Others might be “recent adopters” in their support for biofuels, but Santorum said he has been on board “long before I had visions of running for president.”
He said Iowa caucusgoers “are the most important people in this country right now when it comes to the presidential race.” Iowans will elevate some candidates, end others’ campaigns and “set the table for the rest of the country”
By backing him, Santorum said, Iowans would signal their support for “someone that you can trust, someone you know has experience, someone you can believe in, someone with a record of accomplishment to being able to fight in concert with you for an industry that is important to the economy of this region and for the security of this country.”
But “if Iowa is not going to stand in support of the RFS, why do you think the rest of the country is going to?” Santorum asked.
Trump called the RFS an “important tool in the mission to achieve energy independence” and pledged to do all in his power as president to achieve that goal.
“Energy independence is a requirement if America is to become great again,” he said.
Trump recently toured biofuels facilities and said he was amazed.
“I’m with you 100 percent,” he said, adding, “Make plenty of fuel because we’re going to need it.”
Fiorina said the RFS was intended to level the playing field for ethanol producers. However, unelected regulators and “crony capitalism” have interfered with creating a sustainable market.
“We have people in this race who are owned by the oil and gas industry,” she said.
Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 GOP caucuses, said many Americans don’t understand that “our agricultural system not only provides the food and fiber on our tables, but helps provides fuel for our energy needs, sustainable fuel.”
That’s important, he said, because “it gives us the capacity to do something that we’ve long needed to do — make sure that we never import one ounce of energy to this country ever again.”
Instead, he said, America should be the world’s leading exporter of energy.
“If we really want to take the Russians, the Iranians, the Saudis out of the terrorism business, take them out of the energy business,” he said.