Grassley calls for reinforcements in ethanol fight

Report: White House presses biofuel producers to take deal

Sen. Chuck Grassley answers a question April 23 during a town hall at the Independence Public Library in Independence. T
Sen. Chuck Grassley answers a question April 23 during a town hall at the Independence Public Library in Independence. The meeting with constituents was part of his 99-county tour of the state. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is looking for a little help from his friends.

The Republican wondered Wednesday where they are in the fight to promote the use of corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel.

He is frustrated that the debate over ethanol and biodiesel is characterized as an “Iowa discussion” when other states also have a stake in the federal policy.

“How come this whole thing, discussion with the White House and the (Environmental Protection Agency) and everybody else, just seems to be an Iowa discussion when there’s at least 14 states that are big corn-growing states and every one of those states, I’ll bet, has ethanol in it,” Grassley said during his weekly conference call with reporters. “Where are the senators from all of these other states?”

In addition to Iowa, which produces 18 percent of the U.S. corn crop, the top corn-growing states are Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, South Dakota, Kansas, Wisconsin, Missouri, Ohio, North Dakota, Texas and Kentucky, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Six states — Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana and South Dakota — produce 70 percent of the nation’s ethanol, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Grassley made his comments as the Trump administration was meeting the same day with oil refiners and renewable fuel producers to develop a final plan for hiking biofuel quotas.

The Trump administration is under fire from fellow Republicans Grassley and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, and others, for exempting dozens of refineries from complying with the biofuel blending policy.

Trump in August infuriated the Corn Belt by greenlighting the EPA to exempt 31 oil refineries from the requirement to blend biofuels, a far higher number of waivers than the Obama administration granted.

The president is tying to satisfy two competing constituencies as he faces reelection — seeking to increase the use of crop-based renewable fuels without upsetting the petroleum industry.

The president recently promised to unveil a package of changes he predicted would make farmers “so happy.”

One farmer — Grassley — didn’t seem happy.

“If the leaked version was what he was going to announce, it’s good thing he abandoned it,” he said.

But did he? Reuters reported, citing three sources it did not name, that White House officials nonetheless urged biofuel producers Wednesday to accept the administration’s offer to raise biofuel blending mandates next year by 5 percent even if it falls short of their demands.

The message was delivered by members of the White House’s National Economic Council in a closed-door meeting with officials from major biofuel producing companies like Louis Dreyfus and Archer Daniels Midland, Reuters reported.

Grassley said he is not giving up — with or without the help of his farm state colleagues.

“There’s no reason (Sen. Joni) Ernst and I have to carry the battle all of the time, but it seems that’s what we have to do,” he said. “Of course, we’re doing it, and we’re going to continue to do it.”

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