This week was almost Shakespearean for the ethanol industry. On Tuesday, we saw the Environmental Protection Agency release their rule to pave the way for E15 to be sold year-round, a move to help alleviate the pressures from the damage done by Former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s granting of refiner waivers. In new Administrator Andrew Wheeler, ethanol supporters felt the had an ally. But, beware the Ides of March.
On Thursday morning the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) held a press conference in which they discussed the damage done to the ethanol industry by the hand of Scott Pruitt. RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper commented that 2018 saw the first decline in ethanol consumption in 20 years.
Cooper says that this granting of waivers and the RIN devaluation cost the ethanol industry over one billion dollars. Cooper says that would be a conservative estimate.
Later on Thursday, EPA Administrator Wheeler was to retroactively rule on more RIN waiver requests which were left over from 2017. The ethanol industry had high hopes this ruling would go their way and send the signal that they had found an ally in Administrator Wheeler. However, it did not go their way and Wheeler granted the waivers, just like his predecessor Scott Pruitt. You could almost hear ethanol supporters cry, “Et Tu Brute?”
Where does this leave the ethanol industry? The year-round E15 rule is now in the comment period. The hope is we could have it in place by the summer driving season. However, in light of what happened on Thursday, ethanol supporters may be wary of who is driving the vehicle of their future. Moreover, will that vehicle be running on ethanol blended fuels?
Below are comments about Wheeler’s granting of more RIN waivers.
Iowa Corn Growers: “Iowa corn farmers are very disappointed to hear the EPA granting five more small refinery waivers making a total of 2.61 billion gallons of lost demand for America’s farmers. The EPA needs to stop granting these unnecessary waivers, disgracing Iowa farmers and their hard-working renewable products who now face tough economic times. It’s time the EPA is held to a higher standard in RFS implementation and restore the intent and strength of the RFS.”
National Biodiesel Board: “EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is, unfortunately, following in the footsteps of Scott Pruitt, undercutting demand for biodiesel and renewable diesel by handing out retroactive small refinery exemptions to every refinery that asks for one. It appears to be business-as-usual at EPA, with no effort to ensure that renewable volume obligations are made whole following the exemptions. America’s farmers, biofuel producers, and the environment are directly harmed.”
Growth Energy: “EPA’s decision to grant five more small refinery exemptions is a slap in the face to rural communities, where farmers have lost a key market for their crops and biofuel plants have shut down or idled production. EPA continues to hand out exemptions to unidentified refiners, which only strengthens our serious concern that EPA continues to enrich some of the most profitable oil refineries in the world, all in secret.
“Now more than ever, EPA must restore the 2.6 billion gallons of biofuel lost to these small refinery exemptions and ensure that the targets set by EPA are met in earnest, and we will continue to fight tooth and nail to see that happen.”
Renewable Fuels Association: “It’s extremely disappointing and outrageous to see EPA once again allow oil refiners to undermine the RFS and hurt family farms, ethanol producers and our environment by exploiting and abusing a statutory provision that exempts them from their obligations to blend renewable fuels. The RFS was created to preserve the environment, protect America’s energy security and give Americans more affordable options at the pump. These exemptions undercut those goals, and today’s exemptions mean more than 2.6 billion gallons of RFS blending obligations have been erased with the stroke of EPA’s pen. RFA will continue to fight these exemptions through the courts and urge EPA to adopt a more judicious and restrained decision-making process on refiner exemptions, as well as restore lost volume obligations from previous years.”