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Trump administration tries to pacify farmers with major biofuels boost

The Trump administration Friday announced a sweeping bundle of the amendments to federal ethanol principles in an effort to make up with farmers fierce with the president’s earlier decisions to exempt dozens of oil refineries from requirements to blend biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply.

The package represents a win for ethanol and biodiesel producers — based largely in the Midwest — in their ongoing battle with oil refiners over the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal mandate for biofuels to make up a portion of the U.S. gasoline supply.

While EPA will continue to hand out economic hardship waivers to small-time refiners, the bargain announced Friday will require companies that own bigger refineries to add more biofuels to their products to make up the difference. As a make, the 2020 mandatory will require blending above the 15 billion gallons called for the laws that generated the RFS, an EPA official said.

“Today’s agreement is the latest in a series of steps we have taken to expand domestic vigor product and be enhanced the RFS program that will result in sustained biofuel production to help American farmers, ” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

The package may help President Donald Trump shore up support in Iowa and other Midwestern farm countries, where recent polls have shown his approval ratings underwater.

Corn-state lawmakers were quick to praise the deal.

“President Trump has made clear that he is an ally of corn and soybean farmers as well as ethanol and biodiesel producers, ” Sen. Chuck Grassley( R-Iowa ), said in a statement. “He is fighting for the farmer. This announcement is great news for Iowa, the Midwest and the entire country.”

The happy talk from Grassley recognizes a stark change in tone for the Iowa senator who has been hammering the EPA for months calling relevant agencies a “tool for big-hearted oil” and prodding Trump to take action or risk losing the votes of beleaguered farmers. An impatient Grassley last-place month said the Obama administration handled the RFS better than the Trump administration, and a few weeks later, he told reporters, “Let’s either do our chore or get down the pot.“

Oil refining industry lobbyists and their allies in Congress have warned that the ethanol harms their workers in states that are equally vital to Trump’s reelection hopes, such as Pennsylvania, but they are not able to win any concessions in the bargain. For example, EPA said it would consider changes to ensure RIN market transparency, but it induced no mention of price control on RFS compliance credits, called Renewable Identification Numbers, as some refiners had requested.

Oil refiners are endeavouring to depict the programmes as evenly vital for blue-collar laborers in the crucial swing nations of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, where Trump’s approval is also negative. They slammed the brand-new package and promised to challenge it.

“We are deeply concerned about the Administration’s decision to, once again, play-act politics with our gasoline structure by the rise in an already onerous biofuel mandatory, “ Mike Sommers, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, an petroleum producers trade association, and Chet Thompson, CEO of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a refining industry busines group, said in a seam proclamation. “If this arbitrary policy was conceived to help farmers, it supports no immediate relief — instead it simply further distorts the fuels sell. It is by no means a win-win. We will energetically challenge this new policy in the weeks to come and continue advocating for Congress to reform the RFS.”

Sen. John Barrasso( R-Wyo .), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, echoed that sentiment.

“Any plan to transfer small refineries’ biofuel obligations to other refineries will do more harm than good, ” Barrasso said in a statement. “No one should be surprised if it leads to closed refineries, lost undertakings, and higher fuel prices.”

Farmers have taken a beating during the Trump administration, watching exportations to China drop by more than 50 percentage, struggling to find enough labor to return harvests, and facing bad weather that will hurt this year’s crops. But farmers rage erupted when Trump personally approved 31 refinery exemptions the summer months, fewer than last year but far more than during the Obama administration.

The Nebraska Corn Growers Association called the exemptions “a slap in the face” and biofuel producers from across the Midwest seemed alarm bells that farmers who had voted Trump in 2016 were ready to abandon ship. Meanwhile, Trump’s stock with voters in in the region is falling, as Morning Consult’s state-by-state tracking datashows Trump with negative net approving in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.

The biofuels pack symbols the administration’s effort to make up for lost floor. EPA’s announcement promised an “accounting” in blending authorizations to make up for volume lost from refinery waivers. An EPA official later explained that EPA will require large refiners to merge extra gallons based on a three-year rolling average of the number of exempted gallons, which for the upcoming 2020 conformity year will be more than a billion gallons. As a result, refiners will have to blend more than the 15 billion gallons of conventional ethanol involved statute, the EPA official said.

The administration had been expected to remove barriers to the sale of 15 percent ethanol by permitting service station to use the same containers they use for 10 percent ethanol ga — the standard gasoline used in most cars — for E15, ethanol and oil industry generators said earlier this week, though the EPA official did not address this topic on a see with reporters today and it was not mentioned in the agency’s announcement. The move could be crucial in increasing ethanol marketings and taking advantage of the administration’s decision to allow year-round sales of E1 5 in a rule proposed this summer.

The biofuels industry praised the bargain, insisting that Trump has now come through for farmers.

“It’s been a long process, but when the chips were down, President Trump delivered for farm families and biofuel producers, ” Growth Energy, an ethanol producer commerce association, said in a statement.

EPA will issue a supplemental principle to add to the proposed rule that sets blending requirements for 2020 and 2021. The EPA official said to expect the proposal to be in the Federal Register next week. The organization is required to issue a final regulation by Nov. 30.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Read more: politico.com

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