RFA corrects Wheeler’s misstatements about ethanol demand, SREs

By Erin Voegele | September 25, 2019

The Renewable Fuels Association sent a letter to U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler Sept. 25 criticizing statements he made during a Sept. 19 congressional hearing where he claimed small refinery exemptions (SREs) are not impacting the ethanol industry.

Wheeler appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology Sept. 19 to testify at a hearing focused on science and technology at the EPA.

During the 2-hour event, Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, asked Wheeler if the EPA has witnessed lower demand for ethanol as a result of SREs granted over the past two years.

“Ethanol demand has not been impacted by the small refinery program,” Wheeler said. “In fact, we’ve seen an uptick in ethanol over the last two years. So, far this year, the industry has produced more ethanol than they did at this point last year, and we do not see any demand destruction from the small refinery program on ethanol production.” Wheeler also added that it is his understanding that the U.S. Department of Energy shares that same opinion.

RFA’s letter to Wheeler includes background information to help the agency better understand the real impacts of SREs. The letter also references a separate letter the RFA sent to Wheeler on Aug. 22 responding to reports that an EPA spokesperson had claimed there is “zero evidence” that SREs have had “any negative impact on domestic corn ethanol producer.”

“In light of our August letter and the further deterioration of ethanol market conditions that has subsequently occurred, we were disappointed to hear you repeat similar claims about the impact of SREs on ethanol producers during your testimony,” wrote RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper in the Sept. 25 letter to Wheeler. “Several statements made during the hearing about ethanol supply and demand are inconsistent with government data and market intelligence. I write today to challenge several of your statements and provide additional information regarding the very real impact of SREs on the ethanol industry.”

Specifically, RFA questioned the accuracy of EPA statements regarding recent trends in ethanol production and use. Specifically, Wheeler told the Committee that ethanol production and consumption is on the rise, when data from the Department of Energy and EPA itself indicate otherwise.

“We encourage you and your staff to more carefully and more thoroughly analyze the actual marketplace implications of retroactive SREs,” Cooper concluded. “EPA statements suggesting there has been no negative economic impact from SREs are an insult to the thousands of biofuel industry workers and farmers who are experiencing very real pain today because of EPA decisions.”

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from the RFA website