Wheeler said the agreement for what’s know as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will address concerns about blending exceptions given small oil refineries. “By averaging the last three years of what the small refinery program takes and propose going that much higher than 15 billion gallons — so at the end of the day we net out at least 15 billion gallons or higher. So that the corn farmers, the ethanol producers have the certainty that they need,” Wheeler said.
About 30 ethanol and biodiesel plants nationwide have either temporarily or permanently shut down in recent weeks — including three plants in Iowa — because of the uncertainty caused by the waivers. Wheeler said this plan should help them.
“For next year we are putting a projection for the small refinery program into the requirements on the refinery side for what they have to blend,” Wheeler said, “and that way at the end of the day for 2020 we will have at least 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol.”
Wheeler suggested other factors will also help ethanol producers. “We also continue to export more ethanol as well. So the export market is growing — we did the E-15 earlier this year — which is going to allow higher blends of ethanol to be sold nationwide,”Wheeler said.
Iowa’s elected officials harshly criticized Wheeler following the granting of the refinery waivers. Republicans like Governor Kim Reynolds are responding positively to today’s announcement. Senator Chuck Grassley is praising the plan saying it will “fix” the agency’s exemption process and help corn and soybean growers.
Grassley, a Republican and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the president is “fighting for the farmer.”
“President Trump delivered for Iowa, the farmers, the biofuel producers, and in the end, helping the entire country to be more environmentally good,” Grassley said.
The solution outlined today by the Trump administration is exactly how the RFS, is meant to function, according to Grassley.
“Since taking office, President Trump has listened to the concerns of farmers and biofuel producers,” Grassley said. “Now, he delivered a victory that will ensure the integrity of the RFS is maintained for years to come.”
While the RFS mandates that certain amounts of ethanol need to be blended into gasoline, the Trump administration granted 85 waivers to refineries, freeing them of the ethanol requirement.
Grassley said the plan will “fix EPA’s exemption process and help farmers and biofuels producers going forward.”
“You can grant all the waivers you want to grant, but the law provides for adding back in gallons lost,” Grassley said. “So, basically, that’s what this does.”
The RFS requires 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol be blended into gasoline starting in 2020, but the waivers allowed refineries to refuse some four-billion gallons. Grassley said he’s satisfied with the new plan. “I’m not going to make any decisions until we know what EPA is going to put on paper,” Grassley said. “Fifteen-billion gallons is 15-billion gallons. What they do on waivers doesn’t make much difference, as long as we get what we were promised.”
Iowa’s other U.S. Senator Joni Ernst issued the following statement following today’s announcement:
“This is great news for Iowa and rural America. President Trump is following through on his commitment to our nation’s hardworking farmers and biofuels producers. The RFS is essential to the livelihoods of folks across our state, which is why I’ve been fighting tirelessly on behalf of Iowa’s farmers and producers every step of the way and making Iowans’ voices heard throughout this process. Our message was clear: uphold the RFS-15 billion means 15 billion. The president heard that message and has acted on it. The steps outlined today by the administration will help increase demand for our biofuels, provide certainty for farmers and producers for years to come, and ensure that EPA is implementing the RFS as it was written.”
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig’s statement:
“This is welcome news for Iowa’s farmers and the renewable fuels industry. President Trump listened to our producers’ concerns and took action to address them. This is what happens when farmers, biofuels producers and government leaders work together to make our voices heard. We are grateful to President Trump for directing EPA to uphold the intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard, and we look forward to working with EPA and USDA to implement today’s announcement. As the number one producer of ethanol and biodiesel in the country, Iowa is proud to lead the nation in reducing our dependence on foreign oil. We will continue to work to restore and build demand for these critical markets for Iowa agriculture.”
Governor Kim Reynold’s statement:
“A robust renewable fuel standard is critical to a healthy ag economy in Iowa and across the nation. We are grateful to President Trump for honoring the federal statute to blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol annually, and allowing existing E10 pumps to deliver E15 fuel, helping drive domestic demand for biofuels. By protecting the RFS, President Trump demonstrated his commitment to rural America and the American farmer. Today’s announcement is a reflection of the strong, united front from the renewable fuels industry as well as strong leadership from Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. The President clearly heard us when we said 15 billion gallons means 15 billion gallons, and this deal proves it. We will never stop fighting for the renewable fuels industry because of its central role in our economy and we appreciate President Trump’s willingness to listen and work with this industry. It is clear, this President remains committed to America’s farmers.”
(Radio Iowa’s Dar Danielson also contributed to this story)