Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley took the Senate floor this week asking for a confirmation vote for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey as Under Secretary at the USDA.
Senator Ted Cruz immediately objected to the request, maintaining the four month hold on Northey. He cites oil refiners losing money and jobs to what he called a broken RIN system in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which is a price oil refiners have to pay if they don't want to blend renewable fuels.
Cruz says he has no problems with Northey, in fact he has heard good things about him, but he wants promises that fixes will happen to the RIN system.
Last year, he outlined a cap to RIN prices at 10 cents. Iowa renewable fuels associations say that would destroy the RFS.
Cruz says, "It is my hope that Mr. Northey will be confirmed, it is my hope that he will be confirmed swiftly and expeditiously. But the critical element for that to happen, is for us to find a solution to a problem that is threatening tens of thousands of jobs across this country. That problem arises from what's known as the Renewable Fuel Standard."
Cruz says the RIN system specifically is the problem with the RFS.
After the objection, Grassley yielded the floor to three other Senators to ask for a quick confirmation for Northey, Democrat Senators Debbie Stabenow and Amy Klobuchar and Iowa Senator Joni Ernst. All called for Cruz to withdraw the hold saying Northey was qualified and needed but was being held hostage for an unrelated issue.
Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) are a sort of credit. They are designed to allow renewables to enter a fuel market that is mostly controlled by oil. RINs gives oil refiners the option to blend or pay for the credits. Refiners can blend more renewable fuels and sell their credits to other refiners or they can not blend ethanol and instead buy those credits.
RIN prices have skyrocketed, from cents, to a high of $1.42 according to Cruz. He claims that's putting refiners out of business.
Grassley explained RINs on the floor, saying they are important to the ethanol industry because they keep ethanol competitive
He says he has not been successful in negotiating an agreement in two conversations with Senator Cruz, "He's very adamant, that even though he doesn't have anything against Northey whatsoever. The Northey nomination can be used as a tool for me to back off and harm the ethanol industry and neither Northey or I are going to be a tool in that effort."