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EPA Pulls Rug Out from Under Biofuelers, Fails to Restore RFS Integrity

A couple weeks ago, our Republican members of Congress were trying to convince us that Donald Trump’s EPA was restoring the integrity of the Renewable Fuels Standards program that Donald Trump had damaged with his handouts to Big Oil. But South Dakota Farmers Union president Doug Sombke says the details of the EPA’s RFS promise show the plan is still a stinker for South Dakota biofuel producers:

“The “big beautiful deal” EPA announced last week raised more questions than it answered, and now a week later we have the answers– it isn’t big and it isn’t beautiful. Leaving our future in the hands of EPA is sinking us further into a hole,” said Sombke, who is also a fourth-generation South Dakota farmer.

“We simply cannot allow agriculture and ethanol to be defined by the RFS– we can do so much more. In addition to destroying demand through the waivers from RFS obligations, EPA is attempting to make sure the industry never grows beyond current levels.”

Sombke said along with not fully re-allocating volumes waived in this proposal, previously, in the E15 rvp rule, EPA also capped blends at the 15% level, making it illegal to blend at 20 or 30%, which is where the highest value is in terms of octane and emission reductions [South Dakota Farmers Union, press release, 2019.10.17].

The Trump Administration appears to have reneged on its deal with biofuel backers:

Iowa farm and renewable fuel groups say a proposal that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released Tuesday fails to keep President Donald Trump’s promise to boost the sagging market for ethanol and biodiesel.

“We had a deal with the president … but what the EPA rolled out isn’t that deal,” said Monte Shaw, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association’s executive director.

Jim Greif, president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, said his group “is outraged” that the EPA’s proposal Tuesday doesn’t reflect what the administration outlined “only 11 days ago.”

…The EPA said Tuesday it plans to use a three-year average to account for the reduction in demand for ethanol and biodiesel resulting from the waivers, using the number of gallons that the U.S. Department of Energy recommends waiving.

But the Trump administration earlier this month told farm groups it would use the average of the actual number of renewable fuel gallons that are waived, which is much larger. “Any proposal that does not account for actual waived gallons under the Renewable Fuel Standard fails to restore the integrity of the law,” Greif said in a statement [Donnelle Eller, “Farm, Renewable Fuel Groups Angered by EPA Plan to Replace Lost Demand for Ethanol, Biodiesel,” Des Moines Register, updated 2019.10.17].

If it makes you feel better, farmers, Big Oil is crabby, too:

The oil and gas industry opposes changes to the waiver process mainly because it doesn’t think larger refineries should have to take on the gallons small refineries pass up.

“While the granting of widespread small refinery exemptions should not be occurring in the first place, there is simply no logic in forcing complying refineries to bear the burden of decisions outside of their control. We are evaluating our options and fully intend to vigorously challenge this misguided policy,” Frank Macchiarola, vice president of downstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement to The Hill [Rebecca Beitsch, “Trump’s Latest Plan to Boost Ethanol Miffs Both Corn Groups and the Fossil Fuel Industry,” The Hill, 2019.10.15].

The EPA will hold a public hearing on this broken promise to biofuelers on October 30, then take public comment through November 29 before issuing its final rules on the matter by year’s end.

The public hearing takes place at the Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest, 1275 S. Huron St., Ypsilanti, Michigan, starting at 9 a.m. EDT. Folks planning to testify need to contact the EPA by this Thursday, October 24 (call Julia MacAllister, Office of Transportation and Air Quality, Assessment and Standards Division, Environmental Protection Agency, 2000 Traverwood Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48105; telephone number: 734-214-4131). Submit comments (tag ’em with Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OAR–2019–0136) via the following channels:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: (our preferred method) Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
  • Mail: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Docket Center, Office of Air and Radiation Docket, Mail Code 28221T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20460.
  • Hand Delivery/Courier: EPA Docket Center, WJC West Building, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20004. The Docket Center’s hours of operations are 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday (except Federal Holidays).


  1. Roger Elgersma 2019-10-21 12:45

    A couple of weeks ago trump decided to quit disobeying the law by stopping all these wavers for oil companies to not use alcohol in gasoline to make ethanol. In the past normally one oil company per year got a waver, now he has allowed 84 wavers. So now trump changed his mind again because the oil companies complained. I saw a oil company person say on a TV farm show that it hurt oil companies more than it helped farmers. But do the math, there is one tenth alcohol in ethanol. So if the price of ethanol went up five cents per gallon, that would provide fifty cents per gallon of alcohol in the ethanol. At two and a half gallons of alcohol per bushel of corn, that would be an advantage of $1.25 per bushel of corn for a $0.05 cent cost on the ethanol. So it hurts the oil industry far less than it hurts the farmer. With gas as cheap as it is now, there is no one not buying gas over a five cent per gallon difference. Trump is far more connected to large big industries like oil, coal and steel than he ever will be to the small farmer or even a big farmer. He is a rich kid that is not interested in anyone but himself.

  2. Debbo 2019-10-21 21:19

    “The Trump Administration appears to have reneged on its deal with biofuel backers:”

    Yeah. That’s not really news or unexpected. It’s SOP for Liar-in-Chief.

    Will this be enough to change votes for at least some farmers? Will being lied to, again, do the trick?

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