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Cruz Taps Texas Mistrust of Ethanol
by James Osborne (Houston Chronicle) Attack on federal biofuels mandate provides chance to appeal to base — … But for the junior senator, facing re-election this year as Democrats show new swagger in the age of Trump, ethanol provides the chance to appeal to his tea party base by bucking the Washington bureaucracy while protecting the powerful oil and gas interests so important to the Texas economy.
Most analysts say that Cruz is unlikely to change national ethanol policy – the Trump administration recently sided with the ethanol lobby by slightly boosting fuel blending requirements. But the issue provides an opportunity for Cruz, facing a credible Democratic opponent in Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, to gain some local credibility after spending much of his first term focused on presidential ambitions.
Unlike many lawmakers, including his Texas colleague Sen. John Cornyn, Cruz largely steered clear of bringing home largesse from Washington during his first term as he championed smaller government and dramatically reduced federal spending – to the point of encouraging government shutdowns. As a result, ethanol has become a way for Cruz to demonstrate a Texas-first outlook for voters, said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University’s Baker Institute of Public Policy.
Refineries along the Gulf Coast were once happy to blend ethanol after MBTE, another fuel additive that boosts octane and eliminates engine knocks, was banned in many states over concern of its cancer risk. When former President George W. Bush signed the ethanol mandate into law in 2005, aimed at reducing the nation’s reliance on foreign oil, refiners welcomed a new way to increase octane in gasoline.
Cruz wants refineries to be able to buy RINs directly from the EPA instead of on financial markets, where they are subject to speculation. The details are still under discussion, but a price of 10 cents a gallon has been suggested. READ MORE