Cooper delivers FEW keynote from Iowa ahead of Trump’s visit

By Matt Thompson | June 11, 2019

The 2019 International Fuel Ethanol Conference and Expo kicked off this morning with Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper delivering his keynote address remotely from Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy. President Donald Trump is scheduled visit SIRE today to celebrate the approval of year-round E15 sales.  

“While I am sad to miss the Fuel Ethanol Workshop for the first time in 11 years, I am thrilled to be able to welcome the president to one of the plants where ethanol is made, and to thank him for his commitment to renewable fuels and the American farmer,” Cooper said.

Cooper said today will be game-changing for the industry, comparing it to other milestones such as the passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard, but acknowledged the challenges the industry continues to face, including opposition from the oil industry regarding the one-pound waiver being extended to E15 to allow year-round sales. He said the oil industry filled a petition in court yesterday.

The legal route ethanol opponents are most likely to pursue, is a preliminary injunction, which will require petitioners to show irreparable harm caused by the rule, Cooper said. “There’s a very high bar for that type of injunctive relief,” Cooper said.

He also acknowledged the harm small refinery exemptions that destroyed 2.6 billion gallons of demand. “Year-round E15 is not a cure-all for the demand destruction we have suffered as a result of EPA letting so-called small refiners out of their legal obligation to blend renewable fuels under the RFS,” Cooper said. He added that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will be with President Trump at SIRE, and RFA plans to “continue to do everything in our power to discourage Administrator Wheeler from giving out exemptions to more refiners to prove the qualify.”

This summer, Cooper said, RFA expects EPA to address RVO volumes through the RFS reset, setting blending obligations for 2021 and 2022. “The reset rule was triggered by the fact that advanced and cellulosic biofuel production has consistently fallen short of the congressionally-mandated volumes under the RFS,” Cooper said. He urged EPA to restore demand lost by exemptions with the reset. “EPA could and should do so, through the reset rule by simply adding the previously-exempted volumes to the 2021 and 2022 RFS requirements,” he said.

Exports, Cooper said, are also important for an industry that is dealing with small margins. “Despite the current long odds, we remain optimistic that there will be a trade deal with China that will reopen that market of U.S. ethanol to China,” he said. “Reopening the Chinese market remains our highest trade priority.”

Along with trade issues, Cooper said future policies need to focus on ethanol’s positive attributes. “Clean octane and carbon reduction are ethanol’s two secret weapons and we know that future growth for ethanol will be tied to those two attributes,” he said. “We need to focus our energies around building future policy solutions around those two unique properties.”