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Overnight Energy: Iowa governor opposes Cruz over ethanol

THE ANTI-ENDORSEMENT: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) encouraged his state's voters to oppose Ted CruzTed CruzThe Hill's 12:30 Report Cruz defends Trump's Taiwan call Ark., Texas senators put cheese dip vs. queso to the test MORE's presidential bid on Tuesday, warning against his position on the ethanol fuel mandate.

Cruz is "the biggest opponent of renewable fuels" in the race, Branstad said. Asked if he wanted Cruz to lose in his state, Branstad responded, "yes."

"He's heavily financed by Big Oil," Branstad said. "So we think once Iowans realize that fact, they might find other things attractive but he could be very damaging to our state."

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Cruz "hasn't supported renewable fuels, and I think it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him," he added.

Cruz has taken heat from ethanol interests, a major interest group in Iowa. The state leads the country in ethanol production, and since Congress instituted the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandate, every winner of the Iowa caucuses has supported it.

But Cruz, a Texas senator, has called for phasing out the RFS. He has previously backed immediately ending the mandate, which sets how much ethanol refiners are to mix into their gasoline supply.

"I do believe there should be a gradual phase-out because there has been investment-based expectations," Cruz said earlier this month.

Read more here.

TRUMP WANTS MORE ETHANOL: Meanwhile, Donald Trump called for federal officials to set the ethanol mandate at the levels written into law, higher than what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) most recently set.

Speaking at an Iowa Renewable Fuels Association event, Trump said he's got the ethanol industry's back.

"The EPA should ensure that biofuel ... blend levels match the statutory level set by Congress under the [renewable fuel standard]," Trump said.

He said he's "100 percent" supportive of ethanol, and that using more domestic fuels like ethanol is an essential part toward his campaign slogan of "Make America Great Again."

Trump contrasted himself with Cruz hours after Branstad's comments, saying the Texas senator has "been mixed in the subject." "He goes wherever the votes are, so he all of the sudden went over here, and then all of the sudden, he got slapped," Trump said. "So it's very interesting to see."

Read more here.

CONSERVATIONISTS HIT GOP CHAIRMAN OVER FEDERAL LANDS: The Western Values Project is slamming Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, for what they consider his "long record of undermining the West's parks and public lands."

The group is running ads on Facebook and elsewhere online questioning Bishop's commitment to public land ownership.  

Western Values Project, as did many other conservation organizations, opposed Bishop's effort to reform a major federal conservation fund last fall, as well as other positions he's taken on federal land ownership.

"Any of his attempts at 'reform' or rhetoric about 'balance' aren't going to be taken seriously by anyone who has followed his long political career in our nation's capital," Chris Saeger, director of the Western Values Project, said in a statement.  

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will meet to vote on six bills in its jurisdiction. They include the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act and the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will present the 2016 Schlesinger Medal for Energy Security to former Rep. Philip Sharp (D-Ind.), who played key roles in developing the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990, the Energy Policy Act of 1992, and the implementation of car fuel efficiency standards.

AROUND THE WEB:

Vox collected a host of NASA images to show "how we're transforming the planet."

Industry groups like the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute have joined as defendants in a climate change lawsuit filed by a group of Oregon youths, the Register-Guard reports.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is pursuing new regulations to limit methane emissions from the state's booming natural gas sector, the Patriot-News reports.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Tuesday's stories ...

-HHS to lead federal response to Flint water crisis
-Trump calls for higher ethanol mandate
-Obama to meet Flint mayor about water crisis
-Iowa gov: Don't vote for Cruz
-Feds object to bankrupt coal company's $11.9M in executive bonuses
-EPA head defends Flint water crisis response

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com; and Devin Henry, dhenry@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama@dhenry@thehill