Government

Trump takes Iowa victory lap on ethanol rule

Criticizes Obama and Biden for 'radical' rules on farmers

President Donald Trump reacts as he speaks Tuesday during a visit to a Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy facility in Council Bluffs. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
President Donald Trump reacts as he speaks Tuesday during a visit to a Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy facility in Council Bluffs. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

COUNCIL BLUFFS — Blending his backing of biofuels with denunciation of rival Joe Biden, President Donald Trump on Tuesday castigated the previous administration for blocking year-round sales of a richer blend of corn-based ethanol that his administration has now allowed.

With the Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy facility in Council Bluffs as his backdrop, Trump accepted the accolades of Midwest politicians and farmers for enacting a new rule that allows sales for all 12 months of the year of E15, a blend of fuel that has 15 percent ethanol instead of the typical 10 percent.

Concerns over E15 causing smog is some cities during the hot summer months had led to the partial-year ban.

Iowa is No. 1 in ethanol production As the nation's leading corn grower, Iowa was well-positioned for growth in ethanol production. Iowa produced almost 20 percent of the nation's ethanol in 2016 and, according to Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, the state now produces about 27 percent of the nation's ethanol.

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“Under the previous administration, our leaders rejected American energy and they rejected ethanol,” Trump said. “They imposed radical restrictions on our farmers and ethanol producers. And they refused to even allow talk of E15 during the busiest driving months of the year.”

Taking aim at former Vice President Biden — who also was in Iowa on Tuesday and campaigning to be the Democratic nominee to face him — Trump detoured from his ethanol speech to refer to “Sleepy Joe.”

“He was someplace in Iowa today and he said my name so many times that people couldn’t stand it any more — ‘no, don’t keep saying it.’”

With Biden, he said, “we would never be treated with respect because people don’t respect him.”

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Earlier, when Biden released remarks he would later say in Ottumwa calling Trump an “existential threat to America,” Trump responded in part: “Joe Biden is a dummy.”

At the same time the Trump administration introduced the E15 rule, it has been granting waivers to oil refineries to exempt them from complying with the Renewable Fuel Standard, a law that requires refineries to blend biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply or buy expense credits.

Some of the same politicians and advocacy groups praising rump for the new E15 rule that could increase the demand for corn have criticized him for allowing the waivers.

The waivers, granted to small refineries including those run by Exxon Mobil, Chevron and billionaire investor Carl Icahn, saved the oil industry hundreds of millions of dollars.

A farmer who spoke at Trump’s event noted the discrepancy.

“Mr. president, you delivered on E15, but we have more work to do,” said Kevin Ross.

Iowa’s top elected Republicans, U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and Gov. Kim Reynolds, co-signed a statement in which they praised Trump for fulfilling his campaign promise to support ethanol.

“Ending the nonsensical ban on the summertime sale of E15 is a promise made and kept by President Donald Trump. Unlike so many politicians before him, he is following through on his commitments,” the statement said. “This is a victory for farmers, rural America and the entire nation.”

Praise for Trump’s approval from Iowa Democrats was more tepid.

Former Gov. Tom Vilsack and Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, on behalf of the progressive advocacy group Focus on Rural America, told reporters that while the ethanol industry and corn farmers are pleased with the E15 approval, any benefit does not make up for the harm caused by the waivers for refineries.

In its last three years, the Obama administration approved 23 waiver requests to the ethanol mandate, exempting 690 million gallons of gas from the biofuel blending requirement, according to data compiled by Focus on Rural America.

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The Trump administration so far has approved more than 40 waivers, exempting 2.6 billion gallons of gas, according to Focus on Rural America.

While at the biofuel facility, Trump also signed an executive order directing federal agencies to streamline the review process for agricultural biotechnology including genetically modified livestock and seeds.

The order, he said, would “speed up reviews of biotechnology so that farmers can get access to critical scientific advances faster and reap the full benefits of American innovation for many years into the future.”

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, an industry group, said the order was an “important step forward to ensure government policy does not hinder 21st-century biotechnology from addressing the many global challenges.”

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