Trump to unveil plan for more ethanol in gas
After months of false starts, President Donald Trump was to tell Iowans on Tuesday night during a campaign rally in Council Bluffs that he’s opening the door to year-round access to gasoline with higher ethanol blends. A senior White House official said Monday that Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency to begin rule-making that allows for year-round use of gasoline with 15 percent ethanol or E15. The announcement sets off a review that could make E15 available to consumers as soon as next summer. In addition, the president will seek reforms to biofuels credit trading the White House says will provide greater transparency and help reduce volatility in the market. E15 is banned during the summer months, based on concerns it contributes to smog, a claim ethanol advocates say is unfounded. Almost all gasoline contains 10 percent ethanol. The move should help Iowa farmers and U.S. consumers at a time when years of record harvests – and Trump trade wars with Canada, Mexico and China – have helped depress corn and soybean prices. U.S. farm income this year is expected to be 50 percent below a 2013 high. “It’s wonderful for the American farmer. It’s great for biofuels producers. And it’s great for the American consumer, so we’re thrilled,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, a Washington, D.C., ethanol advocacy group. Skor said increased adoption of higher ethanol blends could boost corn use by 2 billion bushels. That’s big news in Iowa, the nation’s largest corn grower and ethanol and biodiesel producer. About half of Iowa’s corn crop is used to make ethanol and a high-protein byproduct called distillers grain that’s fed to livestock. While farmers backed the president in the 2016 election, many are weary about his approach to trade. A trade war that could cost Iowa about $2.2 billion has hit some of his farm support hardest. Farmers have gained some certainty with Trump’s new trade deals with Canada and Mexico announced earlier this month, which would replace the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. The U.S. is still involved in an ongoing trade dispute with China, the largest buyer of American soybeans and second-largest purchaser of pork, based on volume. Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said Trump deserved credit for getting year-round E15 when other administrations did not. “This is something we’ve worked on for seven years – non-stop,” Shaw said, adding he sees few problems with the reforms proposed to trading biofuels credits, called renewable identification numbers or RINS. “This is the first president that’s taken action,” Shaw said. “It was a promise made and a promise kept.” The president wants more frequent compliance reporting, public disclosure of biofuels credit holdings and limits on who can buy the credits and how long they can be held.