OMAHA (DTN) -- Ethanol leaders will thank President Donald Trump for EPA finishing the rule allowing summer driving with E15 when the president comes to Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Tuesday.
Some of the continuing difficulties facing the ethanol industry will likely come up as well.
Trump first promised to approve E15 year-round at a rally last October in Council Bluffs. "My administration is protecting ethanol. Today we are unleashing the power of E15 to fuel our country all year long," Trump said at the October rally.
EPA cleared the E15 rule on May 31, allowing retailers to continue selling 15% blends throughout the summer months. The E15 waiver had been a major industry goal during the past decade to boost ethanol demand.
Mike Jerke, CEO, president and general manager of Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy, said the event at his 130-million-gallon ethanol plant south of Council Bluffs will provide the president some interaction with farmers and plant employees.
"The whole event is kind of set up as an ethanol education and what has ethanol meant for corn farmers and employees," Jerke said.
Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, credited the president for understanding that ethanol plants are economic engines in rural America and help lower fuel prices for consumers. "I can say without hyperbole or exaggeration that without President Trump's personal interest and advocacy on year-round E15, this critical regulatory reform would not have happened," Cooper said. "We are thrilled to have President Trump visit Iowa, so we can personally thank him for his commitment to our nation's ethanol producers and farmers."
As expected, the petroleum industry is fighting the E15 rule in court. The American Fuels and Petrochemical Association has filed a petition for review in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The petroleum group seeks to overturn the rule. RFA's Cooper said the lawsuit "was entirely predictable." Cooper added, "But EPA's legal analysis is sound and is overwhelmingly supported by the public record and a plain reading of the statute. President Trump was correct in calling the regulatory barrier to E15 'unnecessary' and 'ridiculous,' and we greatly appreciate his effort to empower consumers and the American farmer."
While thanking Trump for finally changing the regulatory policy on 15% ethanol, the president might also hear some complaints about ways EPA is undermining the ethanol industry through small-refinery exemptions EPA continues to grant.
"We want to also talk about the challenge we fight everyday as EPA has morphed or defined the small-refinery exemptions in a way that has been difficult for us and is not helpful to us or to the goals of a robust Renewable Fuels Standard," Jerke said.
A bi-partisan group of 35 congressmen, largely from major biofuel states, wrote EPA in May asking the agency to stop issuing small-refinery exemptions for large or unqualified refiners. All seven members of the House of Representatives representing Iowa and Nebraska signed onto the letter.
Trump will travel from Council Bluffs to Des Moines for a Republican fundraiser. Across the state, former Vice President Joe Biden will be campaigning as well for the 2020 presidential race.
The president comes into Iowa just after he chose Friday not to place a 5% tariff on all products from Mexico. The president claims he won concessions from Mexico, some of which cannot be disclosed yet. The president also indicated over the weekend that Mexico had agreed to buy more U.S. agricultural products, but agricultural trade was not mentioned by the U.S. State Department or Mexican officials.
The president again tweeted Monday, "We have fully signed and documented another very important part of the Immigration and Security deal with Mexico, one that the U.S. has been asking about getting for many years. It will be revealed in the not too distant future and will need a vote by Mexico's Legislative body!" he wrote, and added, "We do not anticipate a problem with the vote but, if for any reason the approval is not forthcoming, Tariffs will be reinstated!"
Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy exports both ethanol and dried distilled grains (DDGs) and the trade conflicts with major buyers have changed exports for both of those products.
"When you have fewer competitors in the market place competing to buy your product you can still move your product, but price is the governor," Jerke said. "That's the concern we have. There are people who would just point to the volume of product that continues to move as evidence there has been no impact with trade issues. But we would indicate that's not the complete picture."
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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