Trump says admin is ‘very close’ to E15 decision

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, July 27, 2018

President Trump said today his administration is “very close” to approving year-round availability for higher-ethanol fuel, a top priority for the biofuels industry.

At a roundtable discussion in Iowa — the nation’s top ethanol-producing state — Trump said his administration would soon deliver on that months-old promise. But he added that doing so is a “very complex process,” raising skepticism from one industry group.

At issue is a regulatory waiver that would eliminate seasonal restriction on the sale of E15 fuel, which is 15 percent ethanol. Most gasoline sold now is 10 percent ethanol.

“We are very close, I have to tell you, to pulling off something that you have been looking forward to for many years,” Trump said. “That’s the 12-month E15 waiver. Getting very close to doing that. Very complex process.”

Trump’s comments brought quick praise from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, with a hint of caution.

“Opening up E15 would create a new market for renewable fuels producers and farmers here at home,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw in a statement. “But we are concerned that the president is being told it is ‘a very complex process’ — which likely refers to some in the administration wanting to package E15 relief with other anti-biofuels provisions.”

Earlier this year, the administration appeared on the cusp of a deal to expand E15 while also taking other measures the petroleum industry favors, such as price controls on renewable fuel credits. That arrangement collapsed amid pressure from corn-state lawmakers.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told reporters Tuesday that he’s talking with advocates on all sides of the biofuels debate and believes his agency can find a new combination of ideas that satisfies everyone.

“At this point, we’re not going to implement any section of that package, but I’m looking, and I’m talking to the ethanol people, I’m talking to the oil people, to all the stakeholders, trying to figure out if we can put together a new package to move forward,” Wheeler said at an event announcing an expanded role for sorghum in the renewable fuel standard.

“I think we can make everybody happy, and we’re certainly working toward that,” Wheeler said.

Sales of E15 are limited in the summer because of ozone rules related to fuel volatility. The volatility of E15 is about the same as for E10, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The Renewable Fuels Association said Trump’s comments suggested he’s ready to make the E15 change without a broader set of actions.

“Refiners are doing quite fine today, seeing record profits and unprecedented exports. Farmers are not,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “Farmers are suffering from unfair trade barriers and chronically low commodity prices. Farmers need relief now in the form of increased market opportunities. E15 year-round would do that.”