President Trump is Listening to Us on Biofuel
During my recently completed 39 county town hall tour of the 4th Congressional District, one of the issues that I discussed at nearly every stop was the importance of protecting the Renewable Fuel Standard’s volume obligations.
As a member of the Congressional Biofuels Caucus, I welcomed this discussion. The RFS has long been one of the most important economic drivers in our state, and our rural economies rely on it as one of the foundations of our success. In the 4th District, we take a great deal of pride in being the leading biofuels district in the country, and we understand that domestic biofuels not only contribute to a cleaner environment, but they also reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources.
Ethanol presents a win-win solution to our nation’s energy demands. That’s one reason why so many people at my town hall meetings, myself included, expressed growing frustration with the Environmental Protection Agency’s continued use of small refinery exemptions (SRE’s) to undercut the RFS.
In response to the concerns about SRE’s being expressed at my town hall meetings, I introduced two pieces of legislation in June (HR 3410 and HR 3411) that were designed specifically to preserve and protect the RFS. The bills both incorporated a basic principle: to protect the RFS’s volume obligations, any gallons lost due to a waiver had to be accounted for, recaptured, and added back.
Shortly after I introduced these bills, I sent my legislation to the White House, and I communicated to them my belief that recapturing gallons lost to SRE’s had to be an essential component of any biofuel proposal they might offer to address this threat SRE’s pose to the biofuels industry.
And, you know what?
President Trump listened to our concerns. He understood them, and he acted on them. This is evident in the new biofuel initiative announced by the EPA on October 4.
Under President Trump’s leadership, the EPA and the USDA have announced that they will be taking a series of actions that serve to uphold the RFS. Here are a few of the things they will be doing:
-EPA will be seeking comments on actions that ensure that, beginning in 2020, more than 15 billion gallons of conventional ethanol will be blended;
-EPA will be seeking comments on actions to ensure that the volume obligation for biomass-based diesel is met;
-EPA will be initiating a rulemaking process to broaden the market for E15 by eliminating barriers to E15’s sale and by streamlining labeling requirements;
-USDA will be budgeting in consideration of infrastructure projects that facilitate higher biofuel blends;
And, last but not least, the Trump Administration announced they would be taking the following action:
-In working to ensure volume obligations are met “this will include accounting for relief expected to be provided for small refineries.”
That provision goes to the heart of what my two bills were drafted to accomplish. This was an important principle for me, and I am pleased that the White House took the idea of recapturing lost gallons and made it a foundational component of their recently announced plan.
The President’s proposal immediately received rave reviews. Iowa Soybeans Association President Tim Bardole stated that “this action restores much-needed certainty in the marketplace by ensuring annual RFS volumes reflect waived gallons from future exemptions.” Senator Grassley stated that the proposal showed that “President Trump has made clear that he is an ally of corn and soybean farmers as well as ethanol and biodiesel producers.” Growth Energy, who in September presented me with their ‘Fueling Growth’ award, stated that “by accurately accounting for lost gallons from this point forward based on a three-year average of all exempted gallons, and breaking down regulatory and infrastructure barriers to higher biofuel blends, we will be able to realize the true potential of the opportunities President Trump opened by approving year round sales of E15.”
I join with those who like what they see in the President’s biofuel proposal. The RFS is the law, and we must ensure its volumes are protected. It’s always rewarding to see good ideas, especially on recapturing lost gallons, implemented by the White House.
This column originally appeared in the October 13, 2019 edition of the Fort Dodge Messenger, linked here.