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By James B. Nelson March 13, 2015

Has Scott Walker changed his view on ethanol mandates?

Perhaps no issue is more important to Iowa farmers than the federal requirement that ethanol -- which is often made from corn -- be blended into America's gasoline supply.

On March 7, 2015, Gov. Scott Walker was among potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates who visited the Iowa Ag Summit, where attendees wanted to know where each of the would-be presidents stood on the "ethanol mandate."

For Walker, it was an especially interesting question.

In 2006, he strongly opposed a state effort to require ethanol use in midgrade gasoline, on the grounds that the government shouldn’t be dictating such rules.

In Iowa, he had this to say:

"It's an access issue, and so it's something I'm willing to go forward on continuing the Renewable Fuel Standard and pressing the EPA to make sure there's certainty in terms of the blend levels set," Walker said.

"Now, long term — we've talked about this before as well — my goal would be to get to a point where we directly address those market access issues and I think that's a part of the challenge. So that eventually you didn't need to have a standard."

In short, he’s for a mandate in the short run, and against it in the long run.

That led some commentators and critics to say he had changed his views.

Did he?

Let’s return to the Flip-O-Meter, which has been getting quite a workout as Walker positions himself for a presidential run.

Our standard disclaimer applies: The Flip-O-Meter is not designed to say whether any change in position is good policy or good politics. Rather, it strictly looks at whether a public official has been consistent in his or her stated views on a topic.

More on the mandate

Corn is king in Iowa, with a large segment of the state’s economy devoted to growing and refining the crop into ethanol.

Enacted by Congress in 2005, the Renewable Fuel Standard has attracted support and opposition from all sides, in often unpredictable alliances. Supporters say the fuel helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil, supports American farmers and drives down the price at the pump.

Opponents include engine makers and consumer groups who say the blended fuel hurts performance, wastes a valuable food product and needlessly drives up the price at the pump.

Free market advocates oppose the government mandate that covers ethanol.

In 2006, when Walker was Milwaukee County executive and weighing a gubernatorial run, he fell cleanly in this camp when it came to ethanol mandates.

Walker took to his blog and radio airwaves to rip a proposed state ethanol mandate.

"Mandates on individuals and businesses are bad for job growth and prosperity," Walker said in a March 9, 2006 blog post directed at the state Senate Republicans. "I ask that you remember this when voting on the ethanol mandate today."

In a March 1, 2006 post he cited former president Ronald Reagan in his critique.

"Republican lawmakers should remember the principles of Ronald Reagan," Walker wrote. "He warned that government is not the answer to our problems, but too often the problem is the government.  The recent legislation to impose a mandate on the use of ethanol is a good example."

And the Wisconsin State Journal dug up this 2006 statement, that indicated Walker’s interests were broader than the Wisconsin bill: "Mandates hurt Wisconsin’s working families, and whether they are from Washington or Madison, we as fiscal conservatives should oppose them."

How does that compare to the comments in Iowa in 2015?

We asked AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for Our American Revival, the group Walker created in anticipation of his campaign for president to explain Walker’s position on ethanol mandates.

"Speaking directly to the RFS as a potential candidate he has not and does not support the passage of new laws that require a specific percentage of ethanol use,"Strong said in an email.

"He believes consumer choice should drive ethanol use, but first the EPA has to uphold the law on the books and set the level. Then, given the opportunity, he would work to address the root problem of market access and phase out the ethanol mandate. Additionally, he wouldn't get rid of it on day one because there’s a level of certainty that farmers and producers depend on and we have to factor that in when phasing it out."

In summary: Walker opposed a state law that would have mandated the use of ethanol. He now says he supports, for now, the federal law that for 2014 set a national target of 15.21 billion gallons of ethanol be produced and blended into gasoline.

We define a Half Flip as a partial change in position or inconsistent statements on an issue.

That’s what we see here.


More on Scott Walker

For profiles and stories on Scott Walker and 2016 presidential politics, go to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Scott Walker page.

Our Sources

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "At Iowa summit, Scott Walker shifts gears on ethanol mandate," March 8, 2015

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Scott Walker will be expected to take a stand on ethanol for Iowa push," Feb. 2, 2015

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Producers rail against changes to ethanol requirements," Jan. 15, 2014

Wisconsin State Journal, "Scott Walker reversals pile up as presidential bid looms," March 12, 2015

Emails, AshLee Strong, Our American Revival, March 10, 11, 2015

The New York Times, "End the ethanol rip-off," March 10, 2015

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Renewable Fuel Standard web page

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by James B. Nelson

Has Scott Walker changed his view on ethanol mandates?

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