This could be complicated.
Rick Weiland sent out a press release Monday "hammering" (that's Team Weiland's word) the Obama Administration for considering a "stupid" (that's also Team Weiland's word) reduction in the ethanol mandate. Weiland included a copy of the EPA draft memo leaked last month that suggests cutting the amount of ethanol required in motor fuel blends in the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standards.
The biofuels industry is in full propaganda response mode. Weiland sounds rather fired up himself:
"If you ever thought big money special interests control only the Republican Party," Weiland said, "this is the proof that you are wrong. Big oil has been trying to gut the renewable fuels industry for years. They have poured millions of the dollars they steal from us at the pump into high priced lobbying and huge political contributions. Now, it appears the EPA will soon cave into pressure from oil companies and propose a cut in ethanol use next year of around 1.4 billion gallons. They will pretend it's needed to give oil companies more time to adjust to higher ethanol blends like E15, but that's hogwash. This is Big Oil’s payoff," Weiland charged [Rick Weiland, press release, 2013.11.11].
There's no doubt that Big Oil would like to see the government stop favoring a competing product. But Big Oil, like Tea Partiers and a broken clock, can be right a couple times a day. Right on top of Weiland's call for keeping ethanol in our gas tanks, this detailed AP report says President Obama's ethanol push has done enormous harm to the prairie:
As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.
Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama's watch.
Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.
Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can't survive.
The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact [Dina Cappiello and Matt Apuzzo, "The Secret, Dirty Cost of Obama's Green Push," Associated Press, 2013.11.12].
So you have the liberal media saying President Obama sold out prairie and wetlands to the ethanol lobby. You have Rick Weiland saying that, in backing away from ethanol, President Obama would be selling out to Big Oil. Partisans, call me when you sort out your loyalties there.
Weiland is clearly placing his chips with South Dakota's ethanol backers. I'm curious: will any other Senate candidates oppose him and make the case that ethanol is bad for the land that we've turned into a fuel factory? Or will Weiland's declaration on ethanol be a moot point in a Senate race where everyone seeks distance from a President who may be changing his mind?