EPA is undermining ethanol

Excessive waiver approvals cut demand inappropriately

President Donald Trump has told Iowa’s farmers that he is looking out for their economic interests. Since he first campaigned for the presidency he has expressed enthusiastic support for the biofuels industries. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency has undercut the president’s promises in the way its officials have administered the Renewal Fuel Standard.

Congress adopted the RFS to promote the use of renewable fuels, such as ethanol. It requires that refineries blend ethanol with oil-based fuels. Each year targets are set regarding the amount of ethanol that must be included in fuels sold in the U.S. Since this requirement could be a hardship for small refineries, the EPA can grant waivers if it can be demonstrated that the RFS is unfairly burdensome.

For many years, there has been a lack of enthusiasm at the EPA for ethanol. Some ethanol backers contend that that this has led the agency to grant RFS waivers inappropriately. The EPA has just announced that it has granted waivers to 31 refineries that it claims meet the requirements of the waiver program. This action has been harshly criticized by Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa’s two U.S. senators — Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst. All three Republicans have long been strong advocates of ethanol. The governor made clear her concern about the recent waivers in a statement issued Aug. 10.

“It is unconscionable for Administrator (Andrew) Wheeler’s EPA to continue to gut the RFS through small refinery exemptions while padding the pockets of oil refiners,” Reynolds said.

Grassley, while acknowledging that the EPA has been somewhat less willing to grant these waivers than in the past, made clear he remains dissatisfied with the agency’s approach.

“This is a small step in the right direction, but I’m very skeptical that every company receiving waivers truly needs them,” he said.

Ernst is similarly unimpressed with the justification for the waivers and is co-sponsoring legislation that would result in Congress policing more strongly the waiver-granting process.

“I’m committed to holding EPA accountable and ensuring they not only uphold the intent of the RFS but that they’re more transparent and forthcoming in this exemption process,” she said.

That approach makes sense to us. Ernst’s Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act of 2019 warrants careful consideration by her colleagues in Congress.

The Messenger welcomes the determination of the governor and our senators to make certain that the ethanol industry is treated fairly. At a time when farmers are already being hurt by the trade disputes with China, undercutting their ability to market corn to ethanol producers is especially troubling. According to Reynolds, the recent waiver decisions will cut demand for biofuel by 1.43 billion gallons. Producing that ethanol would have enabled farmers to sell more than 500 million bushels of corn. We urge Reynolds, Grassley and Ernst to make certain the president is aware of the harm these waiver policies are bringing about in farm country. His underlings should not be allowed to undermine the pledges he has made to our nation’s farmers.


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