Republican presidential candidates Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Donald Trump voiced their support for ethanol at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona on Tuesday.
The candidates took aim the EPA for lowering the mandated amount of ethanol in the nation's fuel supply below targets set by congress in 2007. Iowa is the nation's leading producer of the renewable fuel, which in the U.S. is primarily made with corn.
Front runner and real estate mogul Donald Trump said he was supporting ethanol "100 percent," not because of donor influence, but because it's the right thing to do. Trump is self-funding his campaign, which he says stops lobbyists from shaping his policies.
"As president I will encourage Congress to be cautious in attempting to charge and change any part of the RFS. I mean we have to do that, any part of the RFS," says Trump. "Energy independence is a requirement of America to become great again."
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina says the reason the EPA lowered the RFS is because politicians buckled to pressure by the oil and gas industry. She says that’s why the next president needs to be an outsider who can’t be bought.
"Donald Trump is the flip side of that coin. He has made billions, sitting outside the system buying people, like Hillary Clinton, inside the system," says Fiorina. "And that’s exactly went on when the renewable fuel standard was changed. People outside bought people inside."
Huckabee also cited energy independence as a reason for supporting the RFS, saying the U.S. for too long import from “countries who hate us, or that the very least don't care the much for us.” He went further to say that the US should also be the world's leading energy exporter.
"If we really want to take the Russians, the Iranians, and the Saudis out of the terrorist business, take them out of the energy business," says Arkansas's former governor. "Take away their markets in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Let America become the number one energy exporter in the world."
One candidate not in attendance was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who says he wants to phase-out the RFS over five years. Polls show Cruz neck-and-neck with Trump less than two weeks before the Iowa Caucuses and this has some in Iowa's ethanol industry worried.
Rick Santorum told the audience supporting Cruz would hurt ethanol.
"You will kill RFS, and Iowa will have their fingerprints on the weapon," says Pennsylvania's former senator.
Santorum won the Iowa Caucuses four years ago, thanks in large part to evangelical voters. This block, according to polls and recent endorsements, seems now to be enamored with Cruz.
Also on Tuesday, Iowa's entire Congressional delegation asked the EPA to reassess its stance on the RFS, citing Iowa’s near-record excess supply of corn.
O. Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa contributed to this report.