Trump Rethinks Refinery Waivers After Pushback From Farmers, Democrats

Several reports late this week revealed that Donald Trump has ordered EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to reconsider their approach to small refinery ethanol waivers.

President Trump was in Iowa earlier this month to celebrate the year-round sales of E15 and to fundraise for his reelection campaign, but received blowback from farmers about the high number of small refinery waivers being granted. His administration has continually allowed oil companies, even ones operating sizable refineries, to not mix ethanol into their fuel production, thus limiting demand for ethanol.

While many corn farmers were excited about the prospect of year-round E15, they also noted concerns about the empty deliverable, citing the waivers as a bypass for any actual demand being created.

Trump’s visit to Iowa appears to have had a substantial impact. Not only did farmers push back at the events he held in Iowa, but Democratic presidential candidates have also publicly and repeatedly called out the President for damaging the markets for corn farmers with his relaxed waiver policy.

Politico’s Kelsey Tamborrino was told by a refining industry source that Trump likely expected “roses to be thrown at his feet” in Iowa, but “took a beating” from farmers furious about the refiner exemptions.

Sources also told Reuters’ Jarrett Renshaw that, upon returning from Iowa, Trump asked Wheeler and Perdue to find solutions to address the farmers’ concerns. A refining industry lobbyist said to Renshaw that “Trump realized he may have a political problem” with the waivers.

Bloomberg’s Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Mario Parker reported that Trump’s visit to Iowa caused an uptick in biofuel credits – RINs – with the potential for waivers to decline.

While sources in Washington have been speaking to reporters about Trump pushing Wheeler and Perdue to reconsider the waivers, Democratic presidential candidates have been talking about the waivers for some time.

Amy Klobuchar has long been engaged on the refinery waiver issue, and has been the most outspoken of the Democrats in opposition to it.

“The thing that I most hear when I’m out with our corn and soybean farmers is the fact that [Trump] has been giving these oil waivers, basically undermining the Renewable Fuel Standard. I’m glad we got E15, I’ve been pushing for it with Senator Grassley for years,” Klobuchar said recently. “But when you do these oil waivers, it literally makes a mockery of the standard, and even with what we’re going to gain with the year-round E15 we’re not going to be able to make it up.”

John Delaney, who has visited rural Iowa extensively during his campaign, has also often been critical of the Trump Administration’s waivers.

“We need new leadership that speaks the truth and takes bold action to revitalize rural America,” Delaney said in a statement. “E15 year-round is a good step forward for biofuels, but Donald Trump’s RFS waivers could turn this opportunity into a loss. It’s too late to restore the 2.6 billion gallons of ethanol already lost with waivers to big oil, and we see no sign of that changing. Until we enforce the RFS as written, corn and ethanol producers will continue to lose out.”

In the same week that Trump came to Iowa for an ethanol plant tour and a fundraising event, Elizabeth Warren made a stop in Dyersville, Iowa, to tour an ethanol plant for herself. When asked about the year-round E15 sales, she was supportive.

“But I hope while the president is here, he will also be talking about the exceptions that he’s been granting over and over and over that are creating real hardship for this industry,” Warren said. “It’s not going to mean nearly as much to ramp up on the E15, if at the same time, all of the refinery exceptions mean that, in fact, there’s no corn ethanol in much of what’s being produced.”

 

by Josh Cook
Posted 6/22/19

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