U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s victory on Monday in corn-rich Iowa could represent a major blow to the nation’s controversial biofuels program, reflecting its waning influence over politicians even in the U.S. farm heartland.
The conservative senator from Texas and outspoken opponent of the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, upset Republican front-runner Donald Trump in the Iowa caucuses, the first of the state-by-state battles to pick nominees for the Nov. 8 election to succeed President Barack Obama.
Cruz won with 28 percent of the vote, compared with 24 percent for Trump, a billionaire businessman..
The result was a setback for corn farmers in the country’s biggest ethanol-producing state, who have lobbied hard to protect the policy from being dismantled after more than a decade.
The program requires the use of ethanol and other biofuels in the nation’s fuel supply, aimed at reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil, utilizing cleaner, domestic energy sources and boosting rural economies.
Cruz now supports a phase-out of requirements for renewable fuel, rather than the immediate repeal he was pushing for in 2013.
Still, winning Iowa without the backing of the ethanol and corn lobby may raise doubts as to whether candidates still need to garner its support in the long term, potentially removing a big pillar of support for the lobby’s agenda.