Government

Trump coming to Iowa to tout ethanol expansion

Oil industry files lawsuit seeking to stop new rule

The audience reacts Oct. 9, 2018, as President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Council Bluffs. At that rally, he said he was ordering his administration to allow expanded sales of a higher blend of ethanol. He’s returning to Council Bluffs now that the new rule has been announced. (Leah Millis/Reuters)
The audience reacts Oct. 9, 2018, as President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Council Bluffs. At that rally, he said he was ordering his administration to allow expanded sales of a higher blend of ethanol. He’s returning to Council Bluffs now that the new rule has been announced. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

President Donald Trump and his environmental protection director are coming Tuesday to Iowa to take an ethanol-fueled victory lap.

Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler are scheduled to tour a Council Bluffs ethanol plant. Afterward, Trump will deliver remarks in which he is expected to highlight his administration’s move to allow for year-round sale E15, a higher blend of ethanol.

Wheeler said in a phone interview Monday that the administration worked to get the E15 year-round sale approved in time for the summer driving season.

“We are so happy to do it for the people of Iowa,” Wheeler said. “I certainly heard it when I was there at the (Iowa State Fair), and I remember how important it was to get E15 done, and I’m just really glad to get it done.”

Previously, the E15 blend of corn-based ethanol was not available during the summer months because of concerns the blend contributes to smog in hot temperatures.

Ethanol industry, farm and political leaders from Iowa have been pressing the Trump administration for year-round E15, which they expect to drive demand for more corn and help boost prices. Iowa is the top corn-producing state in the nation.

“We thank the president for keeping his promise to remove the unnecessary and ridiculous regulatory barrier that prohibited the summertime use of E15 in most of the country,” Geoff Cooper, president and chief executive of the Renewable Fuels Association said in a statement.

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The federal mandate that a certain amount of ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply has sparked an ongoing tussle between agriculture and oil.

The main U.S. refining industry association said Monday it sued to block the Trump administration’s effort to expand E15 sales, arguing the move exceeded the administration’s authority.

The legal challenge from the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the news rule.

As much as Iowa’s ethanol industry and political leaders are pleased with the E15 approval, they also remain concerned with the EPA awarding exemptions that allow some oil refineries to skirt the expensive ethanol mandate.

Wheeler said the EPA created a public database to show transparency to the administration’s use of the ethanol waivers.

“We go through each one to make sure they are completely justified before we grant any of them,” Wheeler said. “We aren’t doing blanket approvals.”

Wheeler also said he expects the E15 approval will help offset the impact of any exemptions.

During the ethanol plant visit, Trump and Wheeler will be joined by Iowa and Nebraska Govs. Kim Reynolds and Pete Ricketts, and the state’s agriculture secretaries, Mike Naig and Steve Wellman, all Republicans.

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, a Democrat who represents southwest Iowa, also plans to join the group and thank Trump for the E15 approval and the recent federal disaster assistance package, Axne’s office said.

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Axne also plans to highlight to the president the impact of the ethanol exemptions and the negative impact of his trade wars on Iowa agriculture, her office said.

Trump also is set to attend a Republican Party of Iowa political event later in West Des Moines.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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