Ethanol Blog

Biofuels Leaders Ask Trump to Reject New Round of Small-Refinery Exemption Requests

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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President Donald Trump joined ethanol producers in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on June 11, 2019, to tout the administration's approval of year-round E15 sales. (Photo by Todd Neeley)

In an open letter to President Donald Trump published in the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil this week, Renewable Fuels Association President and Chief Executive Officer Geoff Cooper pleads with the president to support the biofuels industry.

"One year ago today, you visited Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy in Council Bluffs to join us in celebrating a monumental achievement," he said.

"But E15 growth would have been exponentially larger if not for your EPA continuing to excuse oil refiners from their legal obligations to blend renewable fuels. As we told you a year ago, EPA's refinery waives have caused devastating demand losses for ethanol and corn, and they undermine the expansion of E15.

"Even after a federal court overturned some refinery waivers in January, your EPA continues to receive dozens of exemption requests from oil companies. EPA is now even considering giving retroactive waivers for years that pre-date your administration.

"This needs to stop. It is hurting farmers, costing consumers, and derailing progress on energy and environmental security. Mr. President, we need your help. We ask that you stand up for the Renewable Fuel Standard. Please direct your EPA to abide by the January court ruling and end the abuse of the refinery waiver loophole."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver ruled on Jan. 24, that the EPA improperly granted small-refinery exemptions to the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2017 and 2018.

The court ruled EPA didn't have the authority to issue exemption extensions to three companies that were not originally granted waivers. It also found EPA "abused its discretion" by not explaining its conclusion that a small refinery could suffer disproportionate economic hardship while also maintaining refiners passed RFS compliance costs on to consumers at the pump.

The agency has yet to announce changes to the program in response to the court's ruling.

In addition, SIRE Chief Executive Officer and President Mike Jerke, said in an opinion piece published by the Des Moines Register,…, the industry believed 2020 would be a better year.

"Instead we got hit with two more crises," he writes.

"First, the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia hit home. As gas prices plummeted, which usually encourages more people to hit the road, the coronavirus lockdowns hit and demand for all motor fuel, including ethanol, collapsed to levels not seen in several decades."

Trump visited Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy's ethanol plant in Council Bluffs on June 11, 2019.

The event came on the same day the administration announced it would allow E15 to be sold year-round. As a reporter covering the event, I remember the day well.

Farmers, state and federal leaders gathered in a stuffy tent at the plant to hear the president tout his support for the industry.

The event also featured farmers coming to the microphone to speak to the president, including National Corn Growers Association President Kevin Ross who bluntly told the president EPA's approval of small-refinery exemptions was hurting the industry.

From all reports, Trump heard the plea and began asking questions.

Then two months later the administration granted an additional 31 exemptions and the ethanol industry was rocked.

Now, the EPA reportedly is considering granting new waiver requests for previous years but isn't making public how many of those requests were received.

Todd Neeley can be reached at

Follow me on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN


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