President Donald Trump told reporters in April that the barrier preventing 15 percent ethanol, or E15, from being sold year-round is “unnecessary and ridiculous.” I couldn’t agree more.
For a president who vowed to “drain the swamp” of unnecessary regulations, removing the summertime ban on E15 is a perfect next step.
For years now, there has been a bureaucratic barrier within the Clean Air Act that prevents year-round consumer access of E15. From June through mid-September, the summertime ban of E15 blocks competition, kills jobs and prevents Americans from accessing cleaner, lower-cost, higher-octane fuel.
Allowing E15 to be sold any time of year would expand market access for ethanol producers, providing a significant economic boost throughout rural America. Last year alone, the U.S. ethanol industry supported nearly 360,000 direct and indirect jobs across all sectors of the economy, while displacing 532 million barrels of imported oil, keeping $26.9 billion in the U.S. economy.
The economic benefits are felt in Iowa. Our state is the nation’s leader in ethanol production, making a collective 4.2 billion gallons last year. The ethanol plant I represent, Homeland Energy Solutions in Lawler, produces 140 million gallons per year, and I’m proud we’re part of an industry that generated $2.1 billion in income for Iowa households last year. Expanding ethanol access is only going to increase those benefits.
The ability to sell E15 all year also would bring a significant boost to farmers. The ethanol industry is an important value-added market for corn growers and — with another huge crop on the horizon — any additional market opportunities will help stimulate growth in rural America, counteracting trade barriers that China and other countries have placed on agricultural products.
Trump has been a strong agriculture supporter, understanding the integral role farmers play in providing food and fuel to our nation and around the globe. However, his administration is sending mixed signals on renewable fuels.
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Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated approval of year-round E15 should be done as part of a “package deal” to help refiners. But the reality is refiners are doing fine, reporting record profits and unprecedented exports. Proposing aid to these big oil refineries be considered would only continue the same unfair and misguided efforts conducted under former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Pruitt allowed numerous oil companies that make billions in profits to receive so-called “hardship waivers” and avoid blending ethanol. The waivers effectively abandoned the equivalent of 2.25 billion gallons of ethanol. This already has cost U.S. corn growers, ethanol producers, and ethanol blenders more than $5 billion in economic losses, according to recent Renewable Fuels Association calculations.
At a time when both corn prices and ethanol profit margins are sinking and the trade war is dissolving local economies, the Trump administration should be focused on deals that couple the well-being of farmers with a cleaner, more cost-effective energy source — ethanol.
It’s time for this administration to stand firm with rural America by repealing the outdated rules that prevent E15 from being sold for a third of every year.
• Pat Boyle is vice president of the Homeland Energy Solutions Board in Lawler.