Trump directive ended review of ethanol requirements: report

Source: By Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill • Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2019

It was a decision directly from President Trump that ended the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) review of the nation’s biofuel program, according to a Friday report from Reuters, a move that had the president siding with refineries over corn growers.

Last Friday, the EPA granted 31 exemptions to small refineries across the country, giving them a pass on blending ethanol into gasoline.

But sources told Reuters the decision signals a bigger shift within the Trump administration to favor the oil and gas sector over farmers, a group that has already been hit hard by Trump’s tariff war with China.

“The president has heard from all sides and in the end he has had enough of it. He called [EPA Administrator Andrew] Wheeler and gave him the green light,” a source familiar with the matter told the news service.

The U.S. biofuel program requires gas producers to add corn-based ethanol to their fuels, a program originally designed to reduce pollution and reliance on foreign oil. But the program allows EPA to give hardship exemptions to small oil refineries that make a case they are burdened by the law, a move corn farmers say reduces demand for their product.

The rule creates tension between two groups Trump views as supporters.

The president had promised corn farmers he would review the exemptions after a June trip to Iowa, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

The decision last week angered ethanol producers.

“Just two months ago President Trump himself heard directly from Iowa farmers and ethanol plant workers about the disastrous economic impacts of these small refinery handouts. In response, he told us he would ‘look into it’ and we believed that would lead to the White House and EPA finally putting an end to these devastating waivers. Instead, the Trump administration chose to double down on the exemptions, greatly exacerbating the economic pain being felt in rural America and further stressing an industry already on life support,” Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said in a statement at the time.

Refiners viewed the decision more positively.

“We are pleased that EPA recognized the extreme hardship that the [Renewable Fuel Standard] program is having on small refineries. These waivers will go a long way to protecting manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania, the Midwest, and across the country,” Chet Thompson, president and CEO of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, said in a release.