Trump announces E15, heads to Iowa as ag groups praise decision
President Donald Trump today told reporters that he has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to allow year-round sales of E15, the gasoline that contains 15 percent ethanol, and headed to Council Bluffs, Iowa, for a campaign rally to boost Republican candidates.
As he boarded the Marine One helicopter, Trump said, "So we're heading out to Iowa, where we have a big statement to make, as you know, on ethanol and for our farmers. 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," Trump said. "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. [The current price of crude oil per barrel]. 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 concerns that E15 causes air pollution in the summer months, 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."
Agriculture Secretary 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, and Republican Rep. David Young of Iowa.
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.
Wheeler made news earlier today when the Huffington Post reported that he had engaged in racist, conspiratorial posts on social media. (See link.)
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," Perdue said.
"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."
Republican senators and members of Congress quickly praised the president, and Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., held a telephone news conference even before the announcement to say "this is a great day for Kansas agriculture."
Marshall said that his huge western Kansas district is the "largest ethanol-producing district in the country," and that Kansas has 12 ethanol plants, many of which are the leading employers in their communities.
But Democrats also took credit for Trump's decision.
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said "it's about time" Trump had taken his advice.
"I've been a consistent advocate for year-round sales of E15, and I'm glad to see a step in the right direction. However, today's action will likely get tied up in the courts, so passing legislation remains the most reliable avenue to finally getting this done," Peterson said.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who is in a tough re-election race against Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said, "In my longstanding fight for North Dakota farmers, I've repeatedly told the president and everyone in this administration who would listen that year-round E15 would be a boost for rural America, and I'm encouraged they finally listened."
"This victory has been a long time coming for North Dakota farmers and biofuel producers," Heitkamp said. "At a time when the trade war is threatening commodity prices, we need to do everything we can to support farmers, and upholding our commitment to biofuels is one way to give ag producers some much needed certainty.
"After working in a bipartisan way to build support for E15 and protect the RFS, I look forward to continuing to work with the president and the administration to make sure this policy is implemented in a way that protects farmers and biofuel producers in North Dakota."
Farm and ethanol groups praised the decision, but also noted that farmers had lost sales due to the EPA's decisions to allow waivers from the use of ethanol.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said, "AFBF applauds the president for his support of homegrown biofuels and upholding the campaign promises made to rural America."
"We look forward to working with the Environmental Protection Agency to successfully implement year-round E15 sales."
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," Johnson said.
"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," Skor said.
"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 two billion bushels of American corn and help restore growth in rural communities hit hardest by the downturn in farm income," Skor said.
"America's farmers and rural workers are eager to see the President's agenda for rural growth succeed, and today was a critical part of completing that mission."
Skor also thanked Perdue for his advocacy and said Growth Energy's E15 Now Campaign bus would be at the rally in Council Bluffs tonight.
Growth Energy also organized a telephone call to reporters with several Iowa ethanol leaders.
On the call, 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.
Mike Lorenz, executive vice president for Sheetz, a convenience store chain based in Pennsylvania which describes itself as "America's top E15 retailer," said that if EPA releases a rule by next May sales will increase, because consumers will be able to buy E15 during the summer driving season and are likely to continue using the fuel after summer ends.
But Lorenz said he believes other retailers will wait to install E15 pumps until the rule is finalized, which means they will not expand the availability of E15 next summer.
Skor declined to discuss how the administration's promise to make changes to the management of the renewable identification numbers that govern the Renewable Fuel System will proceed. That subject, she said, is "separate" from today's announcement on E15.
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."
"We thank President Trump for formally initiating the process to eliminate this antiquated, red-tape laden regulation, and look forward to the full resolution of this issue before next summer's driving season," Cooper said.
"This is the right signal to the marketplace at just the right time, as both farmers and renewable fuel producers desperately need new market opportunities and sources of demand."
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."
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," the group said.
"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." F
–The Hagstrom Report