Ethanol subsidies are popular in Iowa — home to the first GOP contest on the 2016 presidential primary calendar — but two potential 2016 Republican candidates are opposed to it, creating a delicate political situation should they choose to throw their hats into the ring.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul have both criticized federal subsidies for ethanol, but Iowa party leaders are looking for a candidate who will champion the issue, The Hill reported
Cruz especially has been a vocal opponent of the issue and has introduced legislation that would repeal the renewable fuel standard, which would take effect over the next five years.
"I believe we should pursue an all-of-the-above energy policy and that Washington shouldn't be picking winners and losers," Cruz said, according to The Hill.
Paul has taken a less direct approach but has been on record for opposing regulations and corporate subsidies, which he says have distorted the marketplace and made it more difficult for energy developers to introduce new forms of clean energy.
"We should be talking about energy freedom, new technologies, and discoveries. Instead the debate in Washington continues to be about how much we should subsidize solar or ethanol, and whether we should prohibit nuclear energy or coal," Paul wrote on his Senate website. "We should shift the debate and cut the red tape."
A political science professor at Iowa State University, Steffen Schmidt, said the issue could become a difficult one for Cruz and Paul should they choose to run.
"Ethanol and biorenewables are a very important economic and jobs issue in Iowa. There is no question that these will produce serious questions for Cruz, Paul and also [Texas] Gov. Rick Perry," Schmidt said.
Iowa's Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley has made it clear he wants the state's GOP nominee to be a champion of ethanol.
An estimated 10,000 Iowan households are directly employed by or invested in ethanol biodiesel plants, according to The Hill, and past presidential candidates have taken heat on their position on it while on the campaign trail, such as 2008 Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, a longtime opponent to ethanol subsidies.
Some pundits however, say the ethanol issue may not have as much of an impact as it did in earlier elections.
"Will it be an issue in 2016? It could be, but it's not necessarily the deal breaker that it was," said Craig Robinson, editor-in-chief of The Iowa Republican, an influential conservative website, according to The Hill.
"It's a liability if they don't know how to handle it. It's a liability if you don't understand the RFS is more about market access."
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