RFA Asks for Aid as Grassley Says Biofuels Industry Very Nervous

Source: By Jerry Hagstrom, Progressive Farmer • Posted: Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Renewable Fuels Association said Monday that the government should help the “liquid fuel industries” — including ethanol producers — while Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said he found biofuels leaders “very nervous” when he met with them last week.On a call to rural reporters, Grassley said he did not think there was much sentiment in Congress to help “Big Oil,” but that if there were any assistance, it should include ethanol.

April ethanol prices fell to new lows on Monday at $1.068, but was rising 5.2 cents a gallon early Tuesday and trading at $1.12 a gallon. West Texas Intermediate crude oil on Monday had dropped below $29 a barrel.

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said in a news release, “As an industry that employs 350,000 Americans across the heartland, we’re carefully watching the government’s response to turmoil in the energy markets.”

 “Our industry is being adversely affected not only by the economic constraints caused by the coronavirus, but also by the oil price war, ongoing trade disputes and EPA’s small refinery waivers,” Cooper said.
“While the policy response to turbulence in the energy markets has so far focused largely on supporting crude oil producers, we urge the administration to recognize that biofuel and agricultural commodity markets are suffering as well.

“Ethanol futures prices hit a record low in recent days, as the coronavirus is expected to negatively impact domestic and international fuel demand in the near term. With many ethanol plants on the verge of shutting down, we implore the Trump administration to take action that equitably supports all liquid fuel industries — including ethanol producers — during this time of unprecedented market uncertainty and unrest.”

Cooper said the administration could start with a decision not to appeal the recent 10th Circuit court decision on small refinery waivers, and that the Environmental Protection Agency should implement the 500 million gallon remand as ordered by the D.C. Circuit Court in 2017.

“Given the robust financial assistance the Trump administration is planning to provide to oil producers, immediate actions to ensure EPA abides by these court decisions can help soothe concerns among those whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and renewable fuels,” Cooper said.

Grassley also said the Trump administration should slow down its plans to implement the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer informed Grassley last week that the administration planned to implement the agreement on June 1 after the Canadian Parliament’s approval made that possible.

But when asked on a call to rural reporters about the auto industry’s request for a delay, Grassley said he believes the industry has “a good argument” by noting that regulations haven’t been written and that supply chains may be disrupted due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@nationaljournal.com

|