Ted Cruz Looks For Middle Ground In Fight Between Corn And Oil Industries

REUTERS/Charles Mostoller

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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The key to compromise between oil producers and corn growers is a reform of Renewable Identification Numbers, Ted Cruz argued Thursday.

Corn farmers and refinery workers have waged an increasingly bitter battle over the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard, a 2005 mandate requiring transportation fuel to contain a certain level of biofuels — typically corn-based ethanol. However, as the U.S. energy industry has changed, so has their needs. A growing number of oil refineries have since requested waivers from the RFS, with some in President Donald Trump’s administration considering a rollback of the regulation entirely.

However, the RFS has become an integral part of the corn industry, driving a demand for their product. Agricultural interests have stood firmly against any measures that would rollback the RFS mandate and have criticized the Environmental Protection Agency for what the agricultural industry perceives as too much leniency in offering waivers.

Speaking at a press conference on Capitol Hill, Sen. Ted Cruz offered a “win-win” solution for both corn farmers and refinery workers. Capping regulatory costs on Renewable Identification Numbers is key to helping both groups, the Texas Republican argued.

The EPA uses RINs — serial numbers attached to biofuels — to ensure oil refineries are fulfilling Renewable Fuel Standard requirements. RINs have risen in cost dramatically over the years.

Standing before workers from Monroe Energy, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, and PBF Energy, Cruz on Thursday referred to RINs as a “made up license from the EPA.”

“The solution is capping the regulatory costs on RINs so that the men and women behind me can keep their jobs,” the Texas senator began. “All of these jobs are at risk. And the critical thing to understand is, of all those billions of dollars going to RINs, none of it is going to corn farms. That money doesn’t go to Iowa corn farmers. That money doesn’t even go to ethanol producers. That money is going primarily to Wall Street speculators and giant oil companies — predominately overseas oil companies.”

Cruz was followed by GOP Rep. Lou Barletta, who is running for a hotly contested Senate seat in Pennsylvania, and congressman Bob Brady. The bi-partisan group of lawmakers all spoke on the need to reform RINs.

The growing conflict presents a unique dilemma for the White House. Corn growers in the Midwest and oil producers in the East are considered major bases of support for Trump. Iowa and Pennsylvania — two swing states that went red in 2016 and both at the center of the debate — are crucial for Trump’s 2020 re-election efforts.

Cruz specifically called on Trump to administrate an executive fix, pointing out a legislative fix is essentially impossible in the Senate.

“Everyone who is saying the solution has got to be legislative, they are really saying, ‘do nothing for these guys.’ Because there aren’t 60 votes, and no one has come remotely close to getting 60 votes,” he went on. “There is a solution that could happen today. It could be announced right now. These jobs can be saved. And if there is a longterm legislative solution — great. I’m happy to work with anybody and everybody on a longterm legislative solution, but a longterm solution doesn’t help anybody here if you’re looking at going home to your kids and saying, ‘I’m not getting a paycheck anymore.'”

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