Did Tim Pawlenty really go to the middle of farm belt Iowa to call for an end to ethanol subsidies?
Sure sounded that way to a lot of folks.
"You? In Iowa? Called for an end to ethanol subsidies?” intoned Rush Limbaugh. “That’s politically gutsy.”
Sounded that way to Hot Dish too, especially when the Minnesota Republican uttered these words as part of his “Time for Truth” presidential announcement in Des Moines:
“The truth about federal energy subsidies, including federal subsidies for ethanol, is that they have to be phased out. We need to do it gradually. We need to do it fairly. But we need to do it.”
Pawlenty acknowledged that as a two-term governor of a big farm state, he strongly supported ethanol “in various ways” and still believes in the “promise of renewable fuels.”
One of those ways was pushing to double the amount of ethanol in every gallon of gas from 10 percent to 20 percent.
While Pawlenty also cut ethanol subsidies in Minnesota, he’s long been an industry champion, once even defending government assistance by arguing that “every other fuel is subsidized too.”
On Monday, Pawlenty seemed to be off that kick. “It's not only ethanol,” he said. “We need to change our approach to subsidies in all industries…. We must face the truth that if we want to invite more competition, more investment, and more innovation into an industry - we need to get government out.”
“Government out” would seem to be a new formulation for Pawlenty, at least where ethanol is concerned.
“Pawlenty’s record on ethanol subsidies follows a pattern – he supported them as governor, and now he’s against them," said Michael Kiernan, Iowa Democratic Party Vice Chair.
But not so fast, said Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant: Asked via email whether the governor’s views on ethanol had changed, he emailed: “Who said they changed? He addressed his previous record in his remarks today.”
But as governor, wasn't he a major advocate for ethanol subsidies and mandates?
“He cut state subsidies,” came the reply.
Didn't he push for E-20? Does he still support renewable fuel standards?
“I’m going to refer you to his comments today. He addressed this.”
If it’s still less than clear where Pawlenty stands on ethanol mandates, one of the major governmental industry supports, chalk it off to presidential politics, where the truth is often harder to discern than it seems.