For a few moments, President Trump seemed like he might back away from the country's costly ethanol mandate. First, Trump tapped an ethanol opponent to head up the Environmental Protection Agency. Then in February the president plugged market deregulation for the renewable fuel industry instead of government subsidization.
But those hopes officially came crashing down this weekend when U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue fastened a little pin to his jacket lapel that read "Don't mess with the RFS."
Flanked by Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Steve King of Iowa, Perdue doubled down, telling a herd of reporters at a local cattle lot that "ethanol is here to stay, and we're going to work for new technologies to be more efficient."
Despite the negative economic and environmental effects, the federal government will continue the Renewable Fuel Standard, forcing consumers to guzzle gasoline with the blended biofuel. Of course, this is nothing new.
The EPA has long mandated that the corn-based fuel get blended into the country's fuel supply. And right before Thanksgiving last year, the agency announced a new 200 million-gallon increase, requiring 19.28 billion gallons of the renewable fuel be blended with the country's conventional fuel supply.
For anyone who's not a farmer, there's something in that new standard for everyone to hate.
Ethanol production regularly gobbles up as much as 40 percent of the nation's corn crop, making animal feed and human food more expensive as a result. It has boosted fuel costs by as much as $3.4 billion since 2014, according to the EPA's own analysis. And it may actually increase emissions, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Earlier this year some hoped that Trump would end the reign of the so-called ethanol barons, that cartel that's collected tens of billions of dollars in subsidies over the decades. If any Republican could rescue consumers and relieve aggrieved environmentalists, it would've been Trump.
But with a little dime-store pin and a short stump speech, the agriculture secretary has made clear that the costly ethanol mandate is here to stay.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.