Steyer slams Iowa Republican over biofuels

Billionaire Tom Steyer's new ad against Republican Joni Ernst slams the Senate hopeful for opposing the renewable fuel mandate in Iowa.

The 30-second ad buy released Tuesday by Steyer's NextGen Climate group highlights a meeting between Ernst, ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute (API).

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Although ExxonMobil and API oppose the mandate that requires refiners to mix a set amount of ethanol and other biofuels into the nation's fuel supply, Ernst is quoted in a clip stating the meeting with industry didn't make her "feel uncomfortable."

The ad scolds Ernst, who is running against Rep. Bruce Braley (D), for "her big oil backers," who NextGen claims are "trying to gut Iowa renewables."

While the ad blasts Ernst for being against the renewable fuel standard, Steyer, who founded NextGen in 2013, and said he would funnel at least $100 million into campaigns this year, has criticized ethanol in the past.

In an interview with Fortune in 2010, Steyer said ethanol was not the way to go. NextGen also has routinely criticized any expansion of fossil fuels, and continued use of them in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions. 

Spokesman for NextGen Climate, Bobby Whithorne, defended the group's stance on the fuel mandate.

"The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is an important program that will help transform our carbon intensive oil-dependent transportation sector and increase the development and deployment of biofuels," Whithorne said in an email. "The RFS supports 73,000 good-paying, clean energy jobs in Iowa and is helping us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels."

The new ad is one in a series from NextGen, which launched a $2.6 million campaign against Ernst in Iowa last month.

The Iowa Republican Party took issue with the ad.

“PolitiFact, the Cedar Rapids Gazette and KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, all agree that extreme environmentalist Tom Steyer’s attack ads against Joni Ernst are blatantly false," said spokesman Jahan Wilcox.