Staff Editorial

The Renewable Fuel Standard is broken

Steam rises from a stack outside the POET ethanol biorefinery in Gowrie, Iowa, on May 17, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Daniel Acker.
Steam rises from a stack outside the POET ethanol biorefinery in Gowrie, Iowa, on May 17, 2019. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Daniel Acker.

Last week, the Trump administration announced a revised biofuels policy. The new policy is designed to appease farmers furious over the waivers granted to oil refineries, which exempted them from blending mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard for corn-derived ethanol and soybean-based biofuels.

Farmers and industry leaders have applauded the move, but it’s hard to clap too loudly. The fix is like putting a cast on a leg you broke yourself. The problem was created by the Trump administration in the first place. They granted those waivers to appease the oil industry. And the solution, while promising for the farmers, is just to appease the ethanol industry.

Additionally, the plan itself has some gaping holes. It could take several months to get ethanol refineries back online. And there are a lot of details missing from the plan.

Former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, a Democrat from Albia, told The Gazette, “Trump promised rural America he would fix the waiver issue a month ago …[The] announcement may patch the problem, but it remains below the demand we saw before his election and we have no information on how he’ll implement it. With a month for the oil and gas industry to comment on this announcement, I’m not sure this is a promise Trump and (EPA Administrator Andrew) Wheeler will keep.”

Additionally, the Renewable Fuel Standard was never designed to be a forever solution. The RFS originated in 2005 with the Energy Policy Act to help reduce emissions. But the constant approval of waivers by the Environmental Protection Agency has undercut the goals of RFS. A 2016 report predicted that RFS was unlikely to meet its target goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And as each iteration of politician comes into power the RFS is undermined by the constant politicking and industry appeasing that goes on in our highest and lowest levels of government. Farmers and Iowans and our planet need predictability and stability with the Renewable Fuel Standard. We don’t need the empty promises and toothless solutions to problems this administration created in the first place.

Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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