The Ides of March for ethanol supporters

Source: By Dustin Hoffmann, Iowa Agribusiness news • Posted: Tuesday, March 19, 2019

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Last week was almost Shakespearean for the ethanol industry. On Tuesday, we saw the Environmental Protection Agency release their rule to pave the way for E15 to be sold year-round, a move to help alleviate the pressures from the damage done by Former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s granting of refiner waivers. In new Administrator Andrew Wheeler, ethanol supporters felt the had an ally. But, beware the Ides of March.

On Thursday morning the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) held a press conference in which they discussed the damage done to the ethanol industry by the hand of Scott Pruitt.  RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper commented that 2018 saw the first decline in ethanol consumption in 20 years.

Cooper says that this granting of waivers and the RIN devaluation cost the ethanol industry over one billion dollars. Cooper says that would be a conservative estimate.

Later on Thursday, EPA Administrator Wheeler was to retroactively rule on more RIN waiver requests which were left over from 2017. The ethanol industry had high hopes this ruling would go their way and send the signal that they had found an ally in Administrator Wheeler. However, it did not go their way and Wheeler granted the waivers, just like his predecessor Scott Pruitt. You could almost hear ethanol supporters cry, “Et Tu Brute?”

Where does this leave the ethanol industry? The year-round E15 rule is now in the comment period. The hope is we could have it in place by the summer driving season. However, in light of what happened on Thursday, ethanol supporters may be wary of who is driving the vehicle of their future. Moreover, will that vehicle be running on ethanol blended fuels?