The Trump administration is siding with Big Oil despite announcing a plan to increase ethanol consumption, farm state senators told the No. 2 USDA official on Thursday. “That’s a president that has chosen oil companies over family farmers,” said one of the critics, Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
The Trump administration responded to months of Farm Belt complaints that it was undermining homegrown biofuels by vowing to increase the ethanol mandate, beginning next year, above the 15-billion-gallon-a-year target that is set by law. Officials did not specify a new figure for corn ethanol usage nor did its package include the oil industry's goal of a cap on the price of credits that refiners must buy if they do not mix enough ethanol into gasoline.
As recently as Wednesday, President Trump lauded farmers as “great patriots” for their forbearance in the face of ag exports lost due to the Sino-U.S. trade war. A handful of corn and soybean farmers active in biofuels policy said on Thursday that there is less patience in farm country for the administration’s handling of the ethanol mandate.
President Trump will meet with oil state senators, possibly this afternoon, as the White House referees a long-running dispute over ethanol’s share of the U.S. fuel supply.
President Trump will soon announce a plan to boost demand for biofuels. At least that’s what Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told participants in a policy forum at the Illinois Farm Progress Show on Wednesday. But no one — including Trump or Perdue — seems to know exactly what that plan will be, let alone when it will be announced or implemented.
A dozen lawmakers called on Wednesday for a review of the explosion in ethanol waivers awarded by the EPA in the past two years. In a letter to the Government Accountability Office, the lawmakers said many of the small-volume refineries that applied for waivers did not need them.
At the same time that POET, the largest U.S. ethanol maker, said it was forced to shut down an Indiana plant due to EPA “mismanagement” of the ethanol mandate, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said that “farmers feel the government isn’t keeping its word” on biofuels.
President Trump, who campaigned for election as a friend of corn ethanol, ought to stop the EPA from issuing "hardship" waivers that free refineries from complying with the so-called ethanol mandate, said ethanol and farm groups. The EPA approved 31 waivers for small-volume refineries on Friday without comment.
The Trump administration proposed a Renewable Fuel Standard of 20.04 billion gallons for 2020, meaning no change in corn ethanol's share of the gasoline market for cars and light trucks, while the share of that market going to cleaner-burning cellulosic ethanol, made from grass and woody plants, will increase by 120 million gallons. Farm groups and biofuel makers, who opened the summer with a celebration that higher-blend E15 was approved for year-round sale, said the EPA bowed to Big Oil.