It only took four months, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally released the contents of their proposed rule to allow the year-round sale of E15. President Trump directed the EPA to get the rule done back in October in Council Bluffs. So, what is in the rule?
Audio: World of Agriculture
First and foremost, the new rule will do away with the restrictions against selling E15 between June 1st and September 15th. That has been the largest goal for the ethanol industry and farm-state lawmakers. This move has drawn praise from Ethanol and Corn groups and lawmakers alike.
The Renewable Fuels Association released the following: “Today’s proposed rule means EPA is one step closer to making good on President Trump’s promise to allow year-round sales of E15. With just 80 days left before the start of the summer driving season, finalizing and implementing the E15 regulatory fix remains a tall order. With ethanol plants shutting down or idling and farmers experiencing the worst conditions in more than a decade, removing the summertime ban on E15 once and for all would send a desperately needed signal to the marketplace.”
Growth Energy also showed its support of the rule. “This rule is a critical milestone for rural Americans who make renewable biofuels and for all American drivers, who may soon have a cleaner, more affordable, higher-octane fuel all year long.”
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said, “This proposed rule is a huge victory for Iowa farmers and the ag economy as it keeps the process moving forward to expand the use of E15 to year-round. I commend EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and President Trump for following through on their promise to get a year-round E15 proposal done by this summer. We look forward to submitting comments and continuing to engage in the process to bring the final rule over the finish line by June 1st. Iowa is the country’s number one producer of ethanol, and this announcement brings greater stability to our ag economy.”
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says, “this is a significant step in the right direction and puts E15 on track for approval by summer driving season. Ending the nonsensical ban on summertime sales of higher blends of ethanol is a no-brainer and a big victory for Iowa, Midwest farmers and the country as a whole. It’s also a promise made and a promise kept by President Trump and Administrator Wheeler. Consumers should be able to choose what kind of fuel they want to use. Allowing year-round sales of higher blends of ethanol fits in well with President Trump’s mission to end bureaucratic red tape, create jobs in rural America and establish American energy dominance through increased domestic production. The final rule should reflect those goals in keeping with President Trump’s commitments.”
Senator Ernst was also joined Senator Grassley in fighting for year-round E15. Her words echoed Grassley’s support. “I’m thrilled to see the proposed rule for the year-round sale of E15 move forward. As the nation’s leader in ethanol production, Iowa farmers and producers are depending on this rule being in place by the summer driving season, to fulfill President Trump’s promise.”
Finally, Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig showed his support at the decision. “Administrator Wheeler’s follow through on President Trump’s directive to allow the market to access E15 year-around is welcome news for our farmers during these challenging times. The renewable fuels industry provides value to Iowa farmers, our rural communities and the environment. The proposed rule is an important step towards fulfilling the country’s increasing demand for cleaner fuels.”
The rule also promises to allow for much more transparency in the Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN’s). RIN’s and waivers were at the heart of the ethanol debate which made former EPA Administrator Pruitt an enemy of the agriculture sector. It was his granting of waivers like Halloween candy, that angered many ag and renewable fuels groups.
This proposed RIN reform is where the rule has met with confused responses from E15 supporters. Many of them that I listed above, are wanting to take a closer look at the EPA’s proposal. They want to have a clear understanding of what the promise of reforms will mean. Many groups wanted the EPA to separate the E15 mandate from the needed RIN reforms. Many felt the year-round mandate stood a better chance on its own.
The Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) probably summed up this cautious optimism best when they said, “We need to better understand the language included about Renewable Identification Numbers (RINS) and the impact that it would have to our farmers. We will review the details and will be asking our leaders and ICGA members to engage on the rulemaking.”
Whether or not this will pass remains to be seen. The petroleum industry has already voiced their displeasure with the rule and is expected to throw a myriad of legal challenges at it. The comment period is open until April 29th. Which cuts it close for retailers to make their summertime fuel orders. We have rounded the corner into the home stretch, but there are many furlongs to go and the opposition is coming on strong.