Trump orders EPA to start year-round E15 regulatory process

President Donald Trump Oct. 9 ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to begin the regulatory process that would lead to year-round sales of E15, or 15 percent blend of ethanol in gasoline.

Currently, E15 sales are prohibited during summer months. Critics of the increased amounts of ethanol say higher amounts of ethanol blends will increase ozone pollution in warm weather.

EPA will have to move fast to accomplish Trump’s goal, given the federal rule-making process by June 1, the usual regulatory review cut-off date.

Trump told reporters of his decision as he left the White House destined for Council Bluffs, Iowa, for a campaign rally to boost Republican candidates.

“So we’re heading out to Iowa, where we have a big statement to make, as you know, on ethanol and for our farmers,” Trump said as he prepared to board Marine One. “Likewise, we’re taking care of our refineries and our refiners, and they’ve done a fantastic job. But we want to get more fuel into the system, and this is a great thing.

“But they’re great for our farmers, and it was a promise that I made during the campaign. And, as you know, I keep my promises. So that’s the way it is.”

Later when asked about the petroleum industry’s opposition to E15, Trump added, “Well, I want more industry. I want more energy. I want more, because I don’t like $74. (Crude oil’s price per barrel the day of the announcement.). It’s up to $74. And if I have to do more, whether it’s through ethanol or through another means, that’s what I want. I want low prices. So I’m OK with it.

“You know, it’s an amazing substance. You look at the Indy cars—they run 100 percent on ethanol. And you look at other certain forms of very modern energy, it’s ethanol-based, and that meant a lot to me.

“But what it really means is we’re helping our farmers and we’re also going to be helping our refiners, and you know that too—because they’re both very important. But the farmers have been so terrific, and they produce great product. So I think it’s going to be great.”

In a reference to those concerns that E15 causes ozone pollution in summer, Trump said, “And it has no impact—12 months. That was a misnomer. There is no negative impact. In fact, there are those that say, you do this and the air is cleaner. I agree with that. But they say, you go 12 months instead of eight—you go 12 months, and the air is actually cleaner.”

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue joined Trump in the Oval Office for the announcement, Politico said, along with Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, Deb Fischer of Nebraska and John Thune of South Dakota, along with Rep. David Young, R-IA.

The article made no mention of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who will be in charge of the rulemaking process of allowing the year-round sales of E15.

Perdue said in a statement, “This is another case of ‘Promises Made, Promises Kept’ for President Trump.”

“Expanding the sale of E15 year-round is sound policy for a variety of reasons,” Perdue said. “Consumers will have more choices when they fill up at the pump, including environmentally friendly fuel with decreased emissions.“

“It is also an excellent way to use our high corn productivity and improved yields. Year-round sale of E15 will increase demand for corn, which is obviously good for growers. This has been a years-long fight and is another victory for our farm and rural economies. Along with E15 expansion, we also welcome much-needed reforms to the RIN market, which will also increase transparency.

“President Trump has again made it abundantly clear that he is unleashing the full potential of American energy production as we retake our rightful place as the world’s leader.”


Agriculture reacts

Sign up for HPJ Insights

Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a statement, “I thank President Trump for his steadfast support of E15 expansion, while also acknowledging the close working relationship we’ve developed with Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. I look forward to working with the EPA to see rulemaking and year-round E15 completed by the driving season of 2019.”

“AFBF applauds the president for his support of homegrown biofuels and upholding the campaign promises made to rural America.”

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said, “Allowing use of E15 gasoline year-round is an important step toward realizing a renewable energy future for transportation fuel sector, and we’re appreciative of the administration’s support for higher level blends of ethanol.At the same time, this ‘compromise’ does nothing to address the billions of gallons of ethanol demand that were lost as a result of the EPA’s RFS waiver handouts to oil refiners.

“Family farmers are in significant financial distress right now, and the administration’s surreptitious biofuel demand destruction has made matters worse. The bottom line here is that if the president wants to do right by his promises to support family farmers and American grown biofuels, his administration must support net increases in biofuel use. Even with an E15 waiver, family farmers are at a net loss in biofuel demand over the past two years.”

National Corn Growers Association President Lynn Chrisp thanked Trump and said that regulations requiring retailers to stop selling E15 in the summer are outdated.

“Earlier this year, the president correctly described this barrier as ‘unnecessary’ and ‘ridiculous’,” said Chrisp. “The president also faced pressure to fix this regulatory problem through a bad deal that would have been harmful to farmers. He made the right decision to move this common-sense regulatory relief on its own, and farmers are very grateful.”

Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said, “We thank President Trump for delivering on his promise to rural America by lifting the summer restriction on E15 sales.”

“He answered the call from American farmers by removing the single most important barrier to growth in higher biofuel blends.

“This announcement is great news for farmers, biofuel workers, retailers and consumers everywhere who want to enjoy cleaner, more affordable options at the fuel pump. This is a critical step toward giving American motorists higher-octane options at a lower cost all year long.

“We sincerely appreciate President Trump’s steadfast commitment to rural America. Nationwide E15 sales promise to drive demand for 2 billion bushels of American corn and help restore growth in rural communities hit hardest by the downturn in farm income.”

Skor said Growth Energy expects that the oil industry and environmental groups will bring litigation against the year-round sales, but that she agrees with the Trump administration that EPA will be on firm ground when the cases reach the courts.

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper said, “Securing fair market access for E15 and other higher blends has been our top regulatory priority for several years, and we are pleased that the first official step in this process is being taken. When markets are open and competitive, American consumers win.”


Critics speak out

The American Petroleum Institute said the Trump administration’s decision to allow for year-round sales of higher ethanol E15 blended gasoline “is a bad deal for consumers.”

“Putting a fuel into the marketplace that the vast majority of cars on the road were not designed to use is not in the best interest of consumers,” said API President and CEO Mike Sommers. “Vehicle compatibility tests have shown that high ethanol levels in gasoline can damage engines and fuel systems.”

“EPA has previously stated that it does not have the legal authority to grant the E15 waiver, and we agree with that assessment,” Sommers said. “The industry plans to aggressively pursue all available legal remedies against this waiver.”

Kelly Stone, policy analyst, ActionAid USA said, “This is an attempt to buy off farmers with a giveaway to big ethanol. More corn ethanol isn’t going to address the real challenges farmers are facing, or make up for the lack of a farm bill.

“It will continue to worsen the harm corn ethanol is doing to the environment. Our system of agriculture is broken. Instead of giving in to the demands of agribusiness and big corporations for more ethanol, we need to build a system that works for farmers, eaters and the planet.”

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or [email protected].