Government

Trump sets Council Bluffs rally

Report: He'll order change to boost ethanol

President Donald Trump prepares Jan. 8 to sign a pair of orders for initiatives meant to promote rural internet access, after his remarks to the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Nashville. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
President Donald Trump prepares Jan. 8 to sign a pair of orders for initiatives meant to promote rural internet access, after his remarks to the American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Nashville. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Donald Trump next week will visit Council Bluffs, his campaign announced Tuesday, and — according to two sources familiar with the plan — will reveal his administration is lifting a summer ban on higher ethanol blends of gas.

The rally is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. this Tuesday at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, his campaign said. Doors open at 3:30 p.m.

The announcement would cap months of fractious negotiations initiated by the White House over ways to help the oil industry deal with the cost of complying with the nation’s biofuel law — without at the same time angering farmers who supported Trump’s election.

Expanding sales of higher ethanol blends could help both constituencies by making it easier for the energy industry to hit annual blending quotas under the Renewable Fuel Standard, while shoring up demand for the corn-based fuel. But the oil industry has long opposed the idea, which could cut into its oil market share.

The sources, who asked not to be named, said Trump plans to say during the rally that he is directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to lift the summer ban on E15 gasoline.

They said he also might tighten restrictions on the trading of ethanol blending credits to keep prices down for refiners struggling with the cost of complying.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said she was hopeful for such a move.

“I am optimistic something is going to happen,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It would not be good for the president to hint and hint about lifting the ban and do nothing. I think there would be peril if he came and did not deliver on the promise.”

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Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said he also was hoping the administration would deliver on the E15 measure.

In its announcement, the Trump campaign said the president “will also remind Iowans of the critical importance to get out and vote to protect and expand our Republican majorities in the House and Senate.”

Council Bluff sits in Iowa’s 3rd U.S. House District, where incumbent Republican David Young is locked in tight race with Democrat Cindy Axne. The move also could help Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in her campaign against Fred Hubbell.

The renewable standard is a 2005 law that requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of biofuels into the gasoline supply each year or to buy credits from competitors who do.

But demand growth has slowed as government mandates have capped out and Trump’s trade war with China has cut out a key market, hurting farmers.

Lifting the ban on E15 gasoline, which was a measure to reduce smog that has since been found ineffective, would motivate retailers to add gas pumps and grow the domestic market for ethanol. Iowa is the largest U.S. producer of ethanol.

The American Petroleum Institute opposes both the E15 waiver and the proposed trade restrictions, which the group says will hurt consumers and damage liquidity in the credit market.

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