Biofuels Groups Pressed on Deal

Ethanol, Ag Interests Not in White House RFS Meeting

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Environmental Editor
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Ethanol and agriculture groups were not part of a Renewable Fuel Standard meeting at the White House on Wednesday. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The White House reportedly is giving biofuels interests until Friday to accept a deal from President Donald Trump that would give a boost to biofuels in the current volumes proposal, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing regulatory purposes as the reason for the deadline.

Biofuels and agriculture companies met at the White House to discuss a Renewable Fuel Standard deal, but two sources told DTN the meeting did not include farm interest groups or farmer-owned ethanol plants.

It was reported this week the meeting was to include Iowa-based biodiesel company Renewable Energy Group and Louis Dreyfus Company. Renewable Energy Group did not respond to DTN's request for comment.

A White House spokesman declined to comment to DTN about the meeting.

In response to the information coming from the meeting, a number of ethanol and agriculture groups released a statement:

"Biofuel and farm advocates today urged the administration to uphold the president's commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard and address the economic crisis created by the Environmental Protection Agency's overuse of small-refinery exemptions.

"The following joint statement was issued by the National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association, Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Biodiesel Board, and Fuels America:

"We remain hopeful that President Trump will move swiftly to protect farmers and biofuel workers, but efforts to reverse the damage will be meaningless unless the agency acts now to stop the bleeding and accurately account for lost gallons from this point forward, beginning in the 2020 biofuel targets. Rural communities across America are counting on this administration to uphold the president's commitment to biofuels and restore integrity to the RFS."

That deal has been flatly rejected by biofuels and agriculture groups, primarily because it does not include reallocation of biofuels gallons waived from the RFS. To date the EPA has granted 85 small-refinery exemptions since 2016 totaling more than 4 billion ethanol-equivalent gallons.

On Tuesday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, told agriculture reporters, "The negotiations are still going on, and (Sen. Joni) Ernst, R-Iowa, and I are very much involved in pushing to get reallocation of every waived gallon."

Trump reportedly had intended to announce a biofuels plan this week. But pushback from the biofuels industry in response to details of the proposal leaked to the media apparently prompted the administration to shelve the plan.

According to an ethanol industry source, Trump's proposal includes adding gallons to the 2020 renewable volume obligation in the RFS to include 500 million gallons for conventional biofuels based on a court remand on 2016 volumes. The plan also called for adding 500 million gallons to the 2020 advanced biofuels category.

The industry has been calling on Trump to reallocate biofuel gallons exempted to larger refiners. However, the industry source told DTN there is no proposed reallocation offered in the original Trump proposal.

Instead, the proposal reportedly calls for projecting gallons lost to small-refinery exemptions in the future. However, this would not include reallocation of retroactive exemptions.

The proposal was to include other steps taken to increase sales of E15 and E85, although the details are sketchy at this point.

In addition, the proposal was to make changes to a proposed rule to reset the RFS volumes for 2021 and 2022. EPA reportedly is using an outdated greenhouse gas emissions analysis that would not be favorable to corn ethanol.

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Todd Neeley

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