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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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”