Wheeler claims ethanol demand not impacted by SREs

By Erin Voegele | September 23, 2019

U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler fielded questions on small refinery exemptions (SREs) and the potential of E30 during a Sept. 19 hearing on U.S. EPA science and technology held by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

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.

This is not the first time an EPA representative has claimed SREs aren’t impacting the ethanol industry. Those claims, however, have been strongly disputed by a variety of biofuel trade groups and federal lawmakers representing farm states. 

During the Sept. 19 hearing, Wheeler was also questioned about the possibilities of E30. Rep Roger Marshall, R-Kan., listed several attributes of E30, including its 60 percent reduction in tailpipe emissions, the fact that is usually priced 20 cents per gallon lower than gasoline, and the potential for achieving better gas mileage. He asked Wheeler if the EPA is looking into E30 and his thoughts on the future of E30 blends.

We just completed the [year-round] E15 and right now we’re looking at the overall RFS program,” Wheeler responded. “We look at all blends of ethanol, so we are looking also at E85.” Wheeler noted he isn’t aware if the agency is looking specifically at E30 but said he could get back to Marshall with that information.

Wheeler’s appearance before the committee came the same day as President Trump’s White House meeting with senators representing Big Oil regarding the administration’s SRE reallocation proposal. That proposal was originally expected to be released last week. It is currently unclear when the proposal will be made public and what it will include. Both Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, have expressed distrust of the EPA’s handing of ethanol issues and have stated they need to see a final written proposal before they can announce their support.

A full recording of the hearing is available on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology website