Trump teases work on policy package to boost ethanol

By Erin Voegele | August 29, 2019

President Donald Trump issued a tweet Aug. 29 suggesting his administration is working on a “giant package” to boost demand for ethanol. He did not indicate what the timeframe for the release of that package might be.

Trump’s tweet followed weeks of outrage by members of the biofuels industry and agriculture community regarding the U.S. EPA’s Aug. 9 approval of 31 small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard for compliance year 2018. Together, those SREs exempted 13.42 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel from having to meet RFS blending obligations, accounting for 1.43 billion RINs or approximately 7.5 percent of the total 2018 RFS RVO. Two additional SRE applications for 2018 are still pending.

“The Farmers are going to be so happy when they see what we ae doing for Ethanol, not even including the E-15, year round, which is already done. It will be a giant package, get ready! At the same time I was able to save the small refineries from certain closing. Great for all!” Trump tweeted.

While Trump did not elaborate on what might be included in the package, a leaked Aug. 20 memo from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue outlined several options the administration is reportedly considering to boost ethanol demand. Those options included rescinding a portion of the recently approved SREs; expeditiously taking steps to allow E10 pumps to be approved for E15; taking steps to encourage and facilitate greater use of flex fuel vehicles; fixing “major problems” in the proposed RFS reset rule, which is currently under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget; and prospectively redistributing gallons associated with projected SREs in annual RVO rulemakings beginning with the 2020 RFS standards.

The Renewable Fuels Association responded to Trump’s tweet, noting that 17 ethanol plants are now closed or idled, but no oil refineries have idled in the past year due to the RFS. “We look forward to your news. We know you’ve not forgotten your promise to support #ethanol producers,” the RFA said in its tweet.

The American Coalition for Ethanol also responded to Trump. “We hope this announcement is a big step forward in fixing the mess created by Trump’s EPA undermining the #RFS. So far the actions taken have been to the benefit of Big Oil at the expense of rural America. We need meaningful, immediate solutions,” ACE tweeted.