Finding Religion On Ethanol In Iowa
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) opposed ethanol subsidies during his Senate career, but now, exploring a run for the president, Santorum earned headlines this week when he embraced government supports for ethanol in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa. Evidence suggests, however, his change of heart is not new.
"I guess you could say I've had a mixed record on that," Santorum said in an interview published this week by the website IowaPolitics.com.
Santorum attributed his changed views to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"Prior to 9/11, I was not a big fan of ethanol subsidies," said Santorum, "but 2001 change my mind on a lot of things, and one of them was trying to support domestic energy and this is part of it."
Cynical observers might suggest that Santorum is only supporting ethanol subsidies now that he is a potential candidate in the Iowa caucuses.
But Santorum, in a column on energy published two years ago in the Philadelphia Inquirer, implored his "hard-core conservative friends" to "hold on to your hats" as he announced: "What we need is a government mandate! We need to mandate that all cars sold in the United States, starting with the 2010 model year, be "flex-fuel vehicles" -- that is, they should be able to run on a blend that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline (the so-called E85 blend), or even a coal-derived methanol/gas mixture."
Santorum isn't the only potential 2012 candidate with a nuanced view about ethanol subsidies as Republicans try to court Iowa caucus-goers, with other Midwestern politicians having staked out positions during their careers.
-- Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty asked for ethanol subsidies from the state legislature during his term.
-- Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has supported ethanol production in his home state, but a statement provided to National Review Online earlier this month affirmed his opposition to the federal subsidy.