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Political Mercury

Eric Branstad: Cruz oil stains ethanol


Eric Branstad, leader of a fierce grassroots organization backing renewable-energy sources like ethanol, said last Thursday that Ted Cruz is far and away the most hostile presidential candidate — of either major party — to Iowa-grain-boosting fuels.

Photo by Douglas Burns

Photo by Douglas Burns

Branstad, a son of Gov. Terry Branstad, is the state director of America’s Renewable Future, a nonpartisan Iowa group that peppers candidates with questions about the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal mandate a raft of Iowa agricultural and rural interests say is essential for the sustained health of ethanol and other emerging fuels.

Cruz, a Republican U.S. senator from Texas, says he wants the standard repealed.

“His first hour in the state he came out against the Renewable Fuel Standard,” Eric Branstad said. “It was the first thing out of his mouth. It was like a slap in the face, literally.”

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In an interview with Political Mercury in Des Moines, Eric Branstad, a Republican who is neutral in the presidential race, said Cruz has “quadrupled down” in his opposition to renewable energy and is a captive of the oil industry.

“I believe Iowa caucusgoers are going to see right through Senator Cruz’s, as we pointed out, lies,” Eric Branstad said, referencing an America’s Renewable Future release contending that Cruz will protect oil interests in spite of his calls to end tax advantages for energy production.

Who should most frighten Iowans whose interests are tied to renewable energy?

“It’s definitely Sen. Cruz,” Eric Branstad said.

Cruz enjoys the support of U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, an endorsement that Eric Branstad says baffles him considering the importance of the RFS to much of King’s sweeping rural 4th District.

“I am still real surprised and shocked that Congressman King, being such an outspoken advocate, as he has pointed to the RFS, this is his words, not mine, as the holy grail, I would like to think that Congressman King is showing Senator Cruz the light with that, showing him that holy grail and hopefully giving him a drink from that holy grail,” Eric Branstad said.

A concern, Eric Branstad allowed, is that much of Cruz’s appeal is an ideological rigidity, meaning it will be challenging to turn the Texas conservative into an ally for Iowa grain and livestock, both of which Branstad says are enhanced through renewable energy.

The Cruz campaign, in a statement, strongly rejected Eric Branstad and America’s Renewable Future’s comments on Cruz and ethanol.

“It is blatantly false to suggest that Sen. Cruz wants to end the Renewable Fuel Standard while maintaining subsidies for oil,” Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler said. “Cruz has repeatedly stated that he would end all energy-specific subsidies, both ethanol and oil among others.”

In a detailed “fact check,” America’s Renewable Future said legislation Cruz cites to back up his argument holds the petroleum industry largely harmless from any meaningful, tax-dollar-saving reform. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

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