Another White House meeting is set for today (April 9) to discuss the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). At the end of last week, Iowa ethanol and biodiesel producers urged Iowa’s two U.S. Senators, Republicans Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, to communicate directly with President Donald Trump that any administrative action to cap or waive the RFS program would be viewed as “a declaration of war on rural America.”
The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), representing the state’s 43 ethanol and 12 biodiesel refineries, wrote a letter to Grassley and Ernst asking them to tell Trump that limiting biofuel production would be a “complete abdication of his repeated promises to protect the RFS.” The federal law mandates a minimum volume of biofuels to be mixed in the nation’s gasoline and diesel fuel supply each year.
Oil industry pushing to reduce demand for biofuels
The IRFA letter said the group has heard EPA administrator Scott Pruitt will use today’s meeting with Trump to once again urge adoption of Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s “disastrous RIN waiver scheme that would destroy demand for biofuels.” The oil industry is closely aligned with Pruitt in his home state of Oklahoma.
Monte Shaw, IRFA executive director, notes that Cruz has previously tried to get Trump to waive some of the requirements in the federal RFS law that would ease gasoline and diesel refiners’ volume mandates. “That would reduce demand for biofuels and violate the RFS,” says Shaw.
Recent EPA actions have already caused RIN prices to fall by two-thirds, providing the petroleum industry with a multi-billion-dollar windfall, says IRFA. Biofuel producers are urging Grassley and Ernst to convince President Trump to finally allow year-round E15 sales. The IRFA letter states: “Instead of breaking his promise to protect the RFS, President Trump should fulfill his promise ‘to end restrictions that keep higher blends of ethanol and biofuel from being sold.’
EPA exempts some refiners from RFS obligations
The IRFA says Pruitt has already lifted some RFS blending requirements through secretive waivers to some petroleum refiners—exempting them from compliance and destroying more than a billion gallons of demand for biofuels.
In addition to opposing the new effort to gut the RFS, biofuels producers are urging the senators to call on Trump to rein in EPA administrator Pruitt regarding the granting of the small refinery exemptions. Based on media reports of the secretive waivers, IRFA estimates that over one billion gallons of biofuels demand has been unnecessarily destroyed.
The letter says: “According to petroleum industry sources, Pruitt essentially invited refiners to make requests by making clear that exemptions would be granted. It’s clear that Pruitt has abused the small refinery exemption process when even the oil industry is saying: ‘Anyone with a brain submitted an application. The EPA was handing out those exemptions like trick-or-treat candy.’”
Since becoming EPA chief, Pruitt has repeatedly tried to find ways to subvert the president’s RFS promises and to undermine, if not destroy, the effectiveness of the program, says the IRFA. “Pruitt’s anti-RFS actions must be put to an end because today he is essentially making a liar out of President Trump.”
Pruitt is cited for “chipping away at RFS”
Farmers are already stinging from the president’s tariff fight with China which has affected pork exports and prices and the export of ethanol to China. The next round of tariffs could adversely impact soybean exports, and soybean prices have already fallen in anticipation of Chinese tariffs.
Grassley released a statement on Friday, saying “EPA is chipping away at the Renewable Fuel Standard by issuing secret hardship waivers to oil refining corporations making billions of dollars in profits.” Further erosion of the RFS would “deal a massive blow to rural America,” said Grassley.
Ernst said she and Grassley have had many meetings with Trump and administration officials on ethanol and she is “fully committed to protecting the RFS and will not support anything that will harm the 88,000 farms in Iowa or the 50,000 jobs tied to the renewable fuels industry.”
RFS supporters urged to send message to Trump
Mark Recker, president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, says there will be four possible solutions presented at today’s scheduled meeting at the White House. “We’ve heard that the RIN cap and waiver, which has been in the news a lot lately, is on the table for discussion,” he says. “Another option is to take this RFS issue to Congress and use their preferred method to solve it at this point in time. There is significant support for the RFS in Congress, to leave the law alone and let it continue to work.”
While corn growers from across the country have sent thousands of emails and phone calls to EPA administrator Pruitt urging him to reconsider his tactics on undercutting the RFS, “those messages appear to have fallen on deaf ears,” says Recker. “It’s important for farmers and others who support the RFS to go to www.iowacorn.org and send an email to President Trump and have your voice heard.”