I feel like the Ted Cruz police. Over the last month or so, a pattern has begun to form. Ted Cruz will say or do something, and Republicans will flip out, alleging that it’s not in line with what he said or did (insert number of months or years) ago. The problem often stems from a deliberate refusal to understand what has occurred. Sometimes, this refusal is based in a simple bias against Cruz, but other times, it’s simply rooted in ignorance.
Jazz Shaw, a writer for Hot Air, a website I read and respect, published a piece January 6 titled “Don’t Look Now, but Ted Cruz Just Caved on Ethanol.” In the piece, Shaw alleges that a recent remark by Cruz, as well as an op-ed he penned for The Des Moines Register, shows a flip-flop from Cruz on ethanol. But when I read the piece, there was no such flip-flop, and in fact, Shaw contradicted himself multiple times.
I’ll do a point-by-point.
First, Shaw quotes a piece from a pro-ethanol website, which says:
“During a bus tour stop in Sioux Center, Iowa last night, Senator Ted Cruz expressed support for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) through 2022.”
Shaw suggests that Cruz was singing a different tune a year ago:
“I know there are going to be some staunch Cruz defenders who will try to spin this as being ‘what he said all along’ but that’s thin gruel at best and it’s simply not true. Here’s what Cruz had to say less than a year ago regarding the [Renewable Fuel Standard] RFS.”
It’s at this point that Shaw completely loses touch with reality. He quotes a piece from The Des Moines Register from March 2015 in which Cruz said:
“Ethanol producers in Iowa have demonstrated that there is a real demand for their product and that demand will exist without the federal government getting in the middle…I think anytime government tries to pick winners and losers, it’s a mistake…Ensuring market access is important, but there’s a difference between that and a federal mandate that’s distorting the market.”
What’s clear in this piece is that Cruz doesn’t dig the RFS, and that he believes the free market should be the arbiter of a product’s success. He never says what Shaw implies, which is that because he doesn’t like the RFS, he would immediately yank it.
Let’s circle back to what Cruz actually said in Sioux City when he “expressed support” for the RFS:
Q: “But you also know that the RFS was created and put with a time-limit of 2022, and that was to give us the confidence to invest in our local plants–which we have done. So, are you planning to jerk the rug right out from underneath it, or are you going to let it expire in 2022, like it should, and then stand on its own…”
CRUZ: “Ma’am, you rightly noted that the RFS is scheduled to expire in 2022. When I’ve said we should phase it out, I said it should be a five-year phase out. From 2017 to 2022 is five years. I do believe there should be a gradual phase out, because [there have been] investment-backed expectations…”
In his Des Moines Register piece published January 6, Cruz further clarified:
“By this point in the campaign, many readers will have seen the furious coordinated effort being waged by Democrats and big-money lobbyists, who are together spending hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to convince Iowans that I oppose ethanol. Their charges are utter nonsense.
One of the reasons that Iowa’s own Rep. Steve King–a ferocious advocate for Iowa farmers–is enthusiastically supporting my campaign is because, although I oppose government subsidies, I am a passionate supporter of a free and fair energy marketplace…
The lobbyists’ sole focus is on the RFS, because as long as there is a federal government mandate, Washington remains front and center. Under a Cruz administration, that would change.”
So, regardless of whether or not Cruz is a fan of ethanol, he wants the government out of it. He has expressed opposition to the RFS in the past, and when asked if he’d let it expire, allowing the market to take over, he said yes. However, he said he’d allow the RFS to expire as scheduled in 2022, after a five-year phase out, due to people having substantial investments in it.
I see absolutely no contradiction. Shaw is engaged in black and white thinking. For Shaw, either Cruz yanks the RFS the day he gets into office, or he fully supports it. There’s apparently no other option. Shaw calls it a “stark reversal.” I prefer to call it reality.
Second, Shaw expresses disdain that Cruz allegedly wants to break the blendwall:
“Ted came out with a promise to break the blendwall. Limiting the total blending of ethanol to 10% is the only thing keeping the flood gates partially shut on this mess as it is. What are you talking about Senator Cruz?…This is the same Senator Cruz who last year was opposed to there being a minimum amount of ethanol blended in our gas.”
Shaw once again quotes the March 2015 piece from The Des Moines Register:
“Cruz has opposed the federal regulation that sets a minimum amount of renewable energy that must be blended into motor fuel. Iowa officials of both parties, including Gov. Terry Branstad, have insisted the standard is vital to the industry and have bitterly opposed a move by the Obama administration to roll it back.”
“That’s the exact opposite of what he’s saying now.”
Here’s what Cruz wrote in his January 6 op-ed:
“Right now, the EPA — through regulations on fuels used in vehicle emissions tests — imposes a hard wall against mid-level ethanol blends, such as E25 (25 percent ethanol, 75 percent gasoline), making it largely illegal to sell gasoline with higher blends of ethanol.
Because of this EPA wall, the market is currently dominated by low-level ethanol blends, such as “E10” (10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline). That has prevented mid-level ethanol fuels, such as E25 or E30, from widely reaching American consumers.
If allowed full market access, mid-level ethanol products like E25 or E30 could prove quite popular with American consumers, who are increasingly concerned with fuel economy. Ethanol is an effective fuel additive because it increases octane and decreases harmful tailpipe emissions. And because ethanol often costs less than other octane additives, ethanol blends can be a win-win for automakers and consumers alike…
As president, I will rescind the EPA’s blend wall, allowing ethanol to command a much larger share of the energy market…All without a government mandate. Ensuring market access, without empowering lobbyists. Simply by getting Washington out of the way, and allowing Iowa farmers to sell their product on a fair and level playing field.”
According to Shaw, what Cruz wrote on January 6 is incompatible with:
“Cruz has opposed the federal regulation that sets a minimum amount of renewable energy that must be blended into motor fuel.”
Shaw is interpreting that passage to mean that Cruz opposes the set minimum because he is against ethanol. That’s not the case. Cruz opposes the federal regulation regarding the blendwall because it prevents the market from functioning. Ethanol can win or lose on its own merit, or lack thereof. That’s Cruz’s entire point!
But Shaw didn’t stop there. In an update to the piece, he wrote:
“[At CPAC] Ted Cruz agreed with many ethanol lobby opponents that blended gas causes problems in certain engines and the E10 blend mandate should be removed, not just because mandates are bad, but because ethanol can be problematic, and so people could easily get ethanol free gas if they wanted it.”
Again, there is no contradiction here. Agreeing that some engines have issues with ethanol and supporting a free market in which such a product can compete is not contradictory. In his op-ed, Cruz simply notes the positives of ethanol, and that the government should not be the arbiter of a product’s success. Gasp!
In the update, Shaw also notes that he made an error in saying Cruz wanted to “extend” the RFS to 2022, when in reality, it naturally expires in 2022. This error could have been avoided if Shaw had taken more than a nanosecond to read Cruz’s op-ed, or the March 2015 Des Moines Register piece. Or to think, like, at all. But I guess that’s too much to ask.
What it comes down to is Jazz Shaw’s personal preference. Shaw clearly hates ethanol. As quoted above, he calls it a “mess,” and in his piece, he claims to be very passionate about the issue. That’s it then. Shaw doesn’t like ethanol. He thought Cruz didn’t either. As it turns out, Cruz wants to stand back, and allow the free market to dictate what’s popular, and that makes Shaw angry. If I could read minds, I’d say Shaw wants ethanol banned.
But that’s not how the free market works.