Ethanol producers helped power U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall to victory in 2016.
They now need an assist from their Republican representative in Congress, due to a run on a federal program good for the ethanol industry and Kansas farmers.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a far-right Texas Republican, is leading a charge to cap Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) — a key component of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) — to score a financial break for the refinery industry.
Then-President George W. Bush and Congress established the RFS about a decade ago to lessen dependence on oil imports, lower greenhouse gas emissions and help American farmers. The renewable fuel credits known as RINs are a regulatory device refiners must purchase to prove adequate levels of renewables are being added to the fuel supply.
But capping credits needed for compliance would sharply reduce ethanol demand, to the detriment of states such as Kansas, a top 10 ethanol producer. Corn and sorghum prices would fall.
Marshall landed the support of ethanol producers in part because his tea party opponent in the GOP primary, then-incumbent Tim Huelskamp, advocated repeal of the RFS that’s been a boon to Kansas farmers, small businesses and workers.
Marshall now needs to make a stand against Huelskamp-like forces.
He has met with concerned ethanol producers and agriculture industry leaders. Of Kansas’ 10 ethanol plants, eight are in Marshall’s Big First district, to include the Bonanza BioEnergy facility in Garden City.
“These discussions between ethanol producers and refiners must lead to a win-win solution that supports jobs across our energy industry,” Marshall said in a press release.
One potential “win-win” would be in policies that increase volumes of ethanol produced as a way to boost supply of the credits and lower their cost. The legitimate fear, however, is in another attempt at "win-win" that instead tips the scales in favor of refiners.
Considering there’s already a brewing trade war over President Donald Trump's tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, a struggling Kansas agriculture economy cannot afford further setbacks.
Marshall and others in Kansas’ congressional contingent have to do their utmost to counter such shortsightedness sure to hurt ag producers, related businesses and communities.