Trump can’t seem to get out from under his ethanol promises

Source: By John Siciliano andJosh Siegel, Washington Examiner • Posted: Monday, June 17, 2019

President Trump is only as good for farmers in Iowa as the “second promise” he keeps for the ethanol industry, say lobbyists for the corn-based fuel.

The first promise was securing a market for 15% ethanol blends to be sold all year. The second promise is making sure the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t upend the market for ethanol by approving 39 pending exemptions for the oil industry not to blend the renewable fuel.

That was the message the president heard from farmers and top officials, off camera, when he was in Iowa earlier this week to give a victory speech on EPA’s approval of 15% ethanol blends for year-round use. Environmental restrictions had limited the fuel’s use to only 8 months out of the year.

“We could not have asked for a better E15 rule,” said Monte Shaw, CEO of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. But it is the “second promise” that the farmers in rural America are waiting on Trump to keep.

The industry believes the 15% ethanol rule would become immediately irrelevant if EPA grants the oil industry exemptions, which would reduce the market for the fuel by over one billion gallons.

Shaw sat down with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in Iowa to explain what the industry and farmers expect from the administration.

He told John that farmers are willing to forgive the administration over the dozens of exemptions given to the oil industry under former EPA chief Scott Pruitt. Shaw said he wants to believe that those decisions were due to a “rogue” EPA administrator, and did not have the consent of the president.

But after hearing from farmers, lawmakers, the governor, and others about the second promise, “whatever they do now is Trump, not EPA,” he said.

While Trump was meeting in Iowa, dozens of biofuel companies descended on Capitol Hill in support of a bill that would prevent EPA from approving unwarranted exemptions for the oil industry.

Oil refiners are required under the law, the Renewable Fuel Standard, to blend billions of gallons of ethanol and other renewable fuels each year into the nation’s fuel supply.

The renewable fuel industry wants to see the Trump administration make up for the previous losses they suffered from Pruitt’s refinery exemptions, while preventing any further exemptions from being issued.

The renewable fuel industry is expecting to see evidence of the administration’s commitment to making the industry whole as soon as next week, said Paul Winters, spokesman for the National Biodiesel Board, which organized this week’s lobbying campaign.

EPA’s annual renewable fuel blending requirements for 2020 are expected to be released as soon as next week.

“We will be looking to see whether EPA follows through on the President’s commitment to support growth of the biofuel industry,” said Winters. “Wheeler continually claims that the Courts and Congress have ordered him to give out the small refinery exemptions. We’ll be watching to ensure he properly accounts for them in the rule.”