Just a few days after a coalition of 20 mostly conservative groups jumped into the debate over the federal biofuels mandate and demanded full repeal, one prominent conservative leader said he’s willing to accept something less — for now.
“Do I want repeal? Yes,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “Would something else be an improvement over where we are? Absolutely.”
Norquist’s comment comes just days after his group and several others — including Americans for Prosperity, the American Energy Alliance, and American Commitment — sent Congress an open letter requesting full repeal of the renewable-fuel standard, and nothing less.
The standard, which requires an increasing amount of biofuels — mostly corn-based ethanol — to be blended with the nation’s gasoline supply each year, is currently under review by leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“It has come to our attention that Congress is considering legislation this fall to reform the renewable-fuel standard,” the groups wrote. “We, collectively and individually, believe the only reform to this failed government mandate should be to repeal the RFS.”
But on Monday, Norquist took a step back from the repeal-only stance. “We should repeal as much of the mandate as quickly as we can, but if we can only get rid of part of it now, we’ll get rid of some part of it now,” he said. “We’ll take that while we work towards repeal.”
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., are working on legislation that somehow reforms the policy but doesn’t eliminate it altogether.
The task is a difficult one, with different stakeholders pulling in different directions. Refineries and automakers would prefer no blending mandate at all, corn growers want to maximize the use of corn, and agricultural interests are concerned that diverting corn for fuel is raising food prices.
The mandate, created in 2005 and strengthened in 2007 in an attempt to wean the nation off foreign oil, has come under bipartisan scrutiny in the past year in the face of high corn prices and manipulation of the market the policy created.
According to an industry source close to the committee, lawmakers are considering a freeze on the amount of ethanol refiners can blend with gasoline — placing it at or near the current level — along with expanded waiver provisions for states and a weighted credit system for refiners selling biofuels on the basis of the fuel’s carbon intensity.
Nothing is set in stone yet. And that’s got some otherwise vocal leaders withholding opinions on anything short of a full repeal of the mandate.
“Our long-standing position on this issue has been let’s fold up the tent on this program and get rid of it completely,” said Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance.
Pyle wouldn’t comment on other potential reforms, though. “There hasn’t yet been a substantive proposal showing a path to reform, and you can’t comment on something you haven’t seen,” he said. “You hear lots of things but until there’s a proposal out there our analysts can review, we’re just like everyone else, basing it on rumors and reports.”
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.