Senator Amy Klobuchar blasted the Trump Administration’s continued use of blending waivers for renewable fuels usage while in Iowa this weekend. Using it as an example of how Donald Trump’s presidency has hurt rural America, she linked the EPA’s decisions to the first decline in ethanol prices in many years.
“For the first time, we’ve actually seen decreases in prices in biofuels. You know why?” Klobuchar said at an event in Davenport on Sunday afternoon. “[Former EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt] has been granting these secret waivers, right. That way, what happens when he does that is they go to oil companies, and the oil companies don’t have to meet the requirements of the biofuels laws, and then they make out and then the biofuels in the Midwest get screwed. The new EPA secretary, unfortunately, who I didn’t support, is doing the same thing.”
What Klobuchar was referring to is the small refinery waivers the EPA has granted to fuel refiners, allowing them to exempt ethanol from their final product. The Minnesota Star Tribune reported that farmers were frustrated with the “unusually large number of blending waivers” handed out, often to refineries owned by major oil companies. By not requiring a percentage of ethanol in the fuel, it helps the oil industry gain more control over the market and sell more of their product.
Yep, this is what happens to Midwestern biofuels when the Administration grants secret waivers to the oil companies! Pruitt did it and now they are doing it again: U.S. ethanol market sees first sales decline in decades. https://t.co/o4LhHPhTAY
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) March 16, 2019
Trump’s EPA granted 34 waivers for 2017, including five announced late last week. That’s up from seven waivers in 2015 under the Obama Administration. Overall, Trump’s presidency has seen 2.6 billion gallons of ethanol exempted. Another 37 waivers are requested for the 2018 year.
It’s estimated the ethanol industry, heavily concentrated in the Midwest, will face $1 billion in losses. The Star Tribune noted that one Minnesota company, Highwater Ethanol of Lamberton, Minnesota, lost $6.2 million in its last year, their first net loss in six years.
Still, that was just one issue facing rural America, Klobuchar noted, explaining her full agenda for that part of the country included plans for prescription drug prices, rural hospitals, broadband expansion, and the farm bill. She also mentioned her many years of service on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
“I’ve been a strong supporter for the farm bill … but if people think this is the only thing that people care about in rural America is the farm bill, you know what matters – what matters is there’s not one-size-fits-all when it comes to healthcare,” Klobuchar added. “We need critical access hospitals in rural areas.”
Klobuchar also touched on what several other Democrats are starting to talk more about when it comes to rural America: anti-trust laws. Bernie Sanders had a major new segment in his Iowa stump speech that took aim at the impact of monopolies in the agriculture industry, saying they’ve driven up costs to farmers. Klobuchar asserted that monopolistic practices were one of the biggest threat to the rural economy.
“We are now quickly approaching a new gilded age,” Klobuchar said. “When you ask why did those insulin prices go up, it’s because there’s not enough competition. … Nearly every one of these, you can point to monopolies. That’s why I’ve been leading this effort on anti-trust for years … What we need right now is to update our anti-trust laws and make them as sophisticated as the companies that are trying to rip us off.”
The Minnesota senator finished up on Sunday her third trip to Iowa since announcing her candidacy. She’s since added on to her campaign staff, and Klobuchar returns at the end of the month for the Heartland Forum on rural America in Storm Lake.
by Pat Rynard
Photo by Julie Fleming