Ethanol industry toasts Trump as oil industry readies to sue him

Source: By John Siciliano and Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner • Posted: Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The ethanol industry’s top lobbyist toasted President Trump’s decision to nominate Andrew Wheeler to head the Environmental Protection Agency, while the oil industry is vowing to sue the administration over Trump’s plan to boost the amount of the corn alcohol-based fuel in gasoline.

Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen congratulated EPA acting administrator Wheeler on Twitter. “You have well earned the honor of removing ‘Acting’ from your title,” Dinneen added. “I’m sure you will sail through confirmation and be a tremendous Administrator.”

Promises made, promises kept: Dinneen favors Wheeler because of his promise to move ahead on Trump’s plan to allow the year-round sale of 15-percent ethanol fuels in gasoline. Right now, EPA fuel volatility restrictions confine ethanol levels to just 10-percent fuel blends that make up most of the U.S.’s gasoline.

The oil industry, on the other hand, doesn’t like Trump’s plan because of its potential to make them liable for millions of dollars in damages to car engines. The oil industry, represented by the American Petroleum Institute, says 15-percent ethanol fuels would harm engines and set their industry up for a fall if they are suddenly made liable for the damages.

Frank Macchiarola, API’s downstream director, told reporters on a call Monday morning that the oil industry is ready to use all legal options available to it to make sure Trump’s plan does not move forward at the EPA.

Macchiarola thinks Wheeler is a “top-notch public servant,” but that doesn’t make the E15 plan “a forward looking energy strategy.” He explained on the call that the EPA’s ethanol mandate and Renewable Fuel Standard program mean less for the nation’s energy security than a decade ago when Congress dramatically expanded the EPA program.

Now the U.S. is the largest oil producer in the world, but the EPA renewable fuel program “threatens” that standing if significant changes are not made, said Macchiarola.

The oil group is reiterating its desire for Wheeler to dial back the renewable fuel program’s biofuel blending targets to reduce the burden the program places on the industry, as the agency is expected to finalize the 2019 biofuel targets by the end of the month.