Trump promises ethanol policy changes ‘within two weeks’

Source: By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, September 4, 2019

President Trump today promised changes to ethanol policies within two weeks, which he said would boost biofuels without harming oil refineries.

“Big additional list to be submitted & approved within two weeks. Will be even better for Ethanol, and we save our small refineries!” Trump said, noting that the administration has already sought to help farmers by allowing sales of higher-ethanol fuel year-round.

In his tweet, the president also cited increased Brazilian quotas for ethanol imports, a signal that U.S. farmers could see an expanded market there for ethanol, which is mainly made from corn.

The administration is weighing several potential tweaks to biofuels policy following backlash over EPA’s decision last month to exempt 31 small refineries from the renewable fuel standard’s biofuel blending requirements. Industry sources said the specifics aren’t clear but that officials are considering ways to increase availability of E15 fuel — which is 15% ethanol — and potentially to rework policies on the exemptions in a way beneficial to the ethanol industry.

Small refiners can ask for exemptions based on economic hardship, and EPA has generally awarded them during Trump’s presidency.

Upon reports that the administration is considering ways to boost ethanol, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said in a statement that the administration should steer away from increasing the amount blended into gasoline.

“The administration should pursue policies that help both American farmers and refinery workers,” Barrasso said. “It shouldn’t favor one group over the other. By increasing the amount of ethanol blended into our fuel, we risk closing refineries and killing thousands of jobs. Across the country, refineries help grow our economy, boost energy production, and support local communities. We can do better. We don’t need to punish refinery workers to help our farmers.”