Trump campaign: Policy undercutting ethanol posted in error

Source: By Christopher Doering, Des Moines Register • Posted: Friday, September 16, 2016

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump’s campaign on Thursday briefly published a fact sheet calling for the repeal of a key part of the federal ethanol mandate, but later said an incorrect version of the fact sheet had been published in error.

The initial fact sheet said Trump would repeal a credit program known as a Renewable Identification Number that is part of the Renewable Fuel Standard. A later version removed the RIN mention as one of the programs Trump would end as president.

Iowa produces the most ethanol in the country. Renewable fuels, and the RFS mandate, produce jobs in Iowa, boost the economy and help farmers by increasing demand for their crop. Iowans on both sides of the aisle have shown a preference for candidates who back the RFS.

The Trump campaign blamed the error on an incorrect version of the fact sheet being temporarily placed online. It would not elaborate.

“Our commitment to the Renewable Fuels Standard is unshakeable and unchanging,” said Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman.

But Brooke Coleman, executive director with the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, said Trump’s comments have “muddied his own position” on the RFS.

“Pulling the position is not enough. The industry will be waiting for clarification of why that piece of information was included in the fact sheet,” Coleman said. “Otherwise, it’s not hard to figure out where he is going. This is not the only evidence of (his) softness in the program.”

The RIN credit is a special serial number given to batches of biofuels before they are sold to refiners and gasoline importers looking to comply with a federal mandate to use a certain amount of ethanol. Instead of blending ethanol, the refiner can choose to purchase RINs to comply with the mandate.

The credits are the backbone of the RFS program. RINs are used to track that ethanol has actually been blended into motor fuel by the industry. Without them, the ethanol industry warns, there is no way to track the RFS and ensure that refiners are complying with the mandate.

The RIN “requirements have turned out to be impossible to meet and are bankrupting many of the small and midsize refineries in this country,” Trump said in the first fact sheet. “These regulations will give Big Oil an oligopoly by destroying the small to mid-size refineries.”

America’s Renewable Future, a bipartisan political group backed by top Iowa elected officials and people in agriculture and the ethanol industry, has given Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton high marks for their positions on ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The pro-ethanol organization played heavy in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses earlier this year, at one point using a painted bus that followed Republican candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to campaign events. Cruz was criticized as soft on his support for the RFS, but went on to win the Feb. 1 caucuses. Eric Branstad, now state director for Trump’s campaign in Iowa, was then the Iowa director of America’s Renewable Future.

Branstad said Thursday that Trump’s position on the RFS “has not changed.”

The RFS, which Trump has vowed to protect as president in recent speeches, requires the blending of increasing amounts of alternative fuels into fuel for cars, trucks and other vehicles.

Bruce Babcock, an Iowa State University economist, refuted Trump’s initial comments indicating that part of the RFS is flawed. “The idea that the EPA is proposing mandates that cannot be met is just flat wrong,” he said.