Farmers upset over EPA's new biofuel plan

By Jessie Higgins
Farmers upset over EPA's new biofuel plan
With harvest in full swing, farmers are upset that the the Environmental Protection Agency's new biofuel plan will require that fewer gallons of ethanol and biodiesel be blended into American fuel next year. Pixabay

EVANSVILLE, Ind., Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Farming and renewable fuel groups are angry over an Environmental Protection Agency proposal that they say will reduce the amount of biofuels that oil refiners are required to use next year -- and they are fighting to have it overturned.

The proposed rule, the groups say, reneges on a promise the Trump administration made two weeks ago to require large oil refineries to increase their ethanol use enough to compensate for the exemptions granted to small refineries.


"What they're basically saying is forget the deal we told you about," said Monte Shaw, the executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. "It's a draft rule at this point, so we're raising holy hell. We're trying to get the president's attention. We had a deal."

The difference between the Trump administration's initial announcement and the EPA's proposal is in the details, Shaw said.

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Basically, the intent of both proposals is the same: To ensure 15 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel are blended into America's fuel every year -- as is required by federal law -- in spite of the hardship exemptions given to small refineries.

The EPA's plan to accomplish this, beginning next year, is to estimate the number of gallons it will exempt in the coming year and increase blending requirements for nonexempt refineries accordingly.


At issue for farmers, and the ethanol industry, is in how the EPA will create that estimate.

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In the initial plan, announced Oct. 4, officials said they would take a three-year average of the actual exemptions made, Shaw said.

But, the new proposal, released Tuesday, uses a three-year average of what the Department of Energy recommended the EPA waive -- which is roughly half the amount the EPA actually waived.

"It's not based on any actual exemptions," Shaw said. "They never followed the DOE recommendations."

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The EPA said it decided to calculate the estimates this way because it may follow DOE recommendations next year.

The Iowa Corn Growers Association said it was "outraged the [EPA] did not implement the details that were presented ... by the president only 11 days ago," while the Illinois Corn Growers Association said it's farmers were "frustrated ... to say the least."

"We are not sure what's going on in Washington, D.C., but there is a disconnect between the White House and the" EPA, Ted Mottaz, president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association, said in a statement.

Various lawmakers have expressed similar sentiments.

House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., released a statement that said "The Administration has yet to ... produce a concrete plan to meet the annual 15 billion gallon requirement set in law. The EPA's announcement [on Tuesday] falls short of the promises made by the president."


Illinois corn growers plan to explore legislative options with members of Congress from their state.

"We feel like our only other option is to work with our lawmakers and find a legislative option," said Lindsay Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Corn Growers Association. "We think they will be supportive."

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