Carson in Iowa: Use oil subsidies for ethanol

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Newly minted Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson told an Iowa audience on Tuesday that he would use the savings from ending oil industry subsidies to pay for new ethanol blending stations.

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Carson, in his first speech in the state as a candidate, was asked by a voter about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the federal mandate that fuel refiners blend a certain volume of ethanol and biodiesel into their gasoline and diesel supplies.

"I don't particularly like the idea of government subsidies for anything because it interferes with the natural free market," Carson said, according to The Des Moines Register.

“Therefore, I would probably be in favor of taking that $4 billion a year we spend on oil subsidies and using that in new fueling stations" for 30 percent ethanol blends, he added.

The federal government used to subsidize blender pumps, or gas station pumps that dispense fuel mixed with ethanol, but lawmakers barred the funding in the 2014 farm bill. President Obama proposed new spending on ethanol infrastructure in his 2016 budget, but the proposal has come under fire at the Capitol.

Ending oil subsidies, as Carson proposed, is usually an idea supported by Democrats, but their repeal has rarely, if ever, been tied to new spending on the ethanol industry.

Several Republican presidential candidates have said they oppose the RFS. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton supports the mandate, and in April, she met with representatives of the ethanol industry in Iowa, which produces the most ethanol in the country.

During his speech on Tuesday, Carson also offered up his opinion on climate change.

"Am I a climate change advocate? I'll tell you what I think about climate change. The temperature's either going up or down at any point in time, so it really is not a big deal," he said, the Register reported. "What is a big deal is that the environment is under our control. We do have a responsibility to pass it on to those behind us in at least as good a condition as we found it, hopefully an improved condition."