RFS promoters issue report card for presidential hopefuls

Source: Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, November 12, 2015

Democratic presidential candidates and a handful of Republicans received favorable marks on a midterm assessment of the White House contenders’ views on the renewable fuel standard.

The top Democratic candidates — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — were all graded as “good” on the midterm report from America’s Renewable Future.

Six Republican candidates — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former New York Gov. George Pataki, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and real estate mogul Donald Trump — met the pro-RFS group’s mark for approval.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Ohio Gov. John Kasich received a “needs work” grade for “inconsistent answers” on their views on the biofuels policy, which mandates annual increases in biofuel production and blending in the country’s fuel supply, ARF state director Eric Branstad said.

Receiving a “bad” grade in the GOP field were Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The report card is an interim assessment leading up to a final grade ahead of the Iowa caucus in February, Branstad said.

“At that point, it will be very clear who is supportive of the RFS and who is not,” Branstad said on a call with reporters.

Branstad singled out Cruz for introducing legislation to repeal the RFS, and Carson for comments in the Republican debate last month in which he backed away from past support of using “oil subsidies” to expand the number of ethanol fueling pumps (E&E Daily, Oct. 29).

ARF has been trying to boost pressure on candidates to support the RFS by attending more than 900 events and signing up 45,000 backers.

“It has not been easy,” ARF senior adviser Derek Eadon said. “We’ve been at every political event you can imagine.”

Huckabee and Santorum were praised for visiting ethanol production facilities, and Trump was recognized for his plans to visit a facility this week.

Clinton and O’Malley have written op-eds in support of the mandate, Branstad said.

Activity on both sides of the RFS debate is increasing as U.S. EPA prepares to finalize the requirements for the program for 2014 through 2016, plus the biodiesel requirement for 2017.

ARF hopes to move the candidates in the “needs work” category up a grade before the Iowa caucus.