In latest feud between ethanol and oil interests over exemptions, farm states should win

Source: By Editorial Board, Norfolk Daily News • Posted: Thursday, July 9, 2020

We understand, from a political perspective, that it’s difficult for President Donald Trump and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to deal with what are often conflicting interests of the ethanol industry and oil producers.

In his bid for re-election, the president would like nothing more to have the support of both.

Easier said than done, of course.

Recently, an issue has arisen that has angered and frustrated several members of Congress who represent farm states where the ethanol industry is strong.

And in this case, it’s pretty clear who Mr. Trump and the EPA should side with.

The issue is the EPA’s decision to exempt more small oil refineries throughout the United States — 52 to be precise — from the federal requirement to blend a certain amount of ethanol into fuel. Exemptions have been granted in the past — to the chagrin of the ethanol industry — if it could be proven that meeting the requirement imposed too harsh a financial burden on the refineries.

The exemption requests came not long after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the EPA had overstepped its authority in granting previous exemptions. It’s that court ruling that should provide the direction the White House needs in resolving this issue.

As U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse of Nebraska — along with 14 others — said in a letter to the White House and the EPA, “We urge you to reject these petitions outright. … These petitions should not even be entertained because they are inconsistent with the 10th Circuit decision, congressional intent, the EPA’s own guidance, and — most importantly — the interests of farmers and rural communities who rely on the biofuel industry.”

Plus, the exemption requests would cover what is known as “gap years.” What’s important to know is that the refineries are asking for exemptions even though the law providing for them was intended to only offer them for a year or two. Plus, refineries aren’t supposed to get them if they haven’t renewed them continuously.

That’s more reason to reject the request given that the refineries don’t meet the law’s guidelines.

We understand the political pressures that President Trump is facing as he seeks re-election. Every bit of support is important.

But in this case, the oil industry should understand — even though it may not publicly admit it — that the latest round of exemption requests isn’t justified and should be rejected. This time around, the ethanol industry should come out ahead.