ELLIOT: Forget the swamp, Mr. Trump start with the cornfield

Jim Young—Reuters
Corn is seen in a field. FILE

One of the refreshing things about an impending Trump presidency is the opportunity to gore some of Washington’s sacred special-interest oxen. If Trump truly values ordinary Americans over entrenched elites, one of the first things to go should be the disastrous ethanol mandate for gasoline, a program that costs Americans every time they fill their gas tanks, harms the environment, and raises food prices.Curiously, President Obama’s lame-duck Environmental Protection Agency may provide the impetus a Trump administration will need to dismantle the Carter-era handout to corn farmers. If, as expected, the EPA rolls out stricter mandates for ethanol-based fuels this month — it is proposing to raise the amount of ethanol and other biofuels by 700 million gallons next year — the political will to ditch the mandate may reach a bipartisan tipping point.Born in the energy crisis of the 1970s, the fuel-from-corn mandate was an attempt to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. But the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles, combined with the miraculous shale revolution, the technological breakthrough that has doubled domestic production of oil since 2008, has reduced both foreign supply percentages and prices at the pump. (And even before the supply bonanza, ethanol never produced any significant reduction in our foreign energy dependence.)Ethanol also drives up the cost of food, both corn-based food and meat. Gasoline and food. Can you think of two products that more Americans use more frequently?There will be losers if the mandate is repealed. Almost 40 years of ethanol has created an artificial market tied to the subsidies in corn-producing states. While it’s hard to feel sorry for the folks who have fed at the trough of taxpayer subsidies, perhaps they deserve a path back to a market economy. Fine. Trump can make a deal that lets the Cornhuskers and Hawkeyes down easy. The vast majority of Americans will thank him.If he does blow up the ethanol mandate, even environmentalists should thank Trump. A wide range of scientists, university researchers, and research groups — except those tied to the ethanol industry — now agree that ethanol is bad for the environment. When the American Petroleum Institute, the National Council of Chain Restaurants, and the far-left Environmental Working Group agree on both a policy position — the ethanol mandate is bad — and the reasoning — it pushes farmers to grow corn for fuel instead of food — you can rest assured that the only thing propping up the boondoggle is Washington politics.Politics, especially presidential politics, has always been the bugaboo for eliminating the ethanol mandate. But Trump can take a hit in corn states and be okay, especially this early in his term. When he runs in 2020, he’ll be the incumbent and won’t need to win Iowa to narrow the field. What he can do, even this early in his term, is reaffirm his commitment to blue-collar and other “ordinary” Americans across the nation. No president can achieve everything he wants, and draining the wallet-hurting ethanol mandate from the special-interest swamp would be a good sign to the masses that he meant what he said during the campaign.So make the deal, Mr. Trump, and make an immediate and substantive impact on all Americans — or at least the ones who drive cars, eat food, or care about the environment.