Ethanol Blog

Cruz, oil Lawmakers to Meet with Trump on RFS, Other Developments

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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The Washington Examiner reported on Monday that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other Republicans were granted a meeting on the Renewable Fuel Standard with President Donald Trump and members of his cabinet. That meeting reportedly set for Thursday, will include U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. The Examiner characterized the meeting as a chance for lawmakers from oil-producing states to "hash out a deal on the Renewable Fuel Standard that would please oil refiners."

Prior to EPA's release of the final 2018 RFS volumes last week, Pruitt had a number of meetings with lawmakers from the Midwest regarding their concerns about potential changes to the law.

Not sure you could call that series of meetings as hashing out a deal, but it resulted in Pruitt announcing in a letter to lawmakers the RFS volumes would not be cut and other changes would not be made to the law.

Lawmakers from oil-producing states decided to try to create their own bit of magic, in requesting a meeting with Trump and/or his cabinet to talk about their RFS concerns.

When asked on Tuesday by reporters about the upcoming meeting, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, essentially shrugged it off in confidence because of the president's support for biofuels.

Asked whether he was concerned about whether the meeting is a concern, Grassley said "not if the president keeps doing what he told the voters of Iowa, that he supports ethanol."

Cruz continues to hold up the nomination of Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey as USDA undersecretary of agriculture for farm and foreign agricultural services, until the president granted a meeting on the RFS with oil interests. Northey would be in charge of three agencies: the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Risk Management Agency.

Grassley indicated it might be possible Northey wouldn't want the position "if the president compromised his views on ethanol." Asked whether he was invited to the meeting, Grassley said, "No. I doubt if they want me around." Grassley said the meeting isn't alarming in any way, as it would be no different from the president agreeing to meet with any other senator.

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Grassley said the oil industry's opposition to the RFS may be nothing new, but the industry has forgotten its role in creating the law.

"I hope big oil remembers that they were part of the formulating of the RFS," he said. "We worked very closely with oil because they wanted to do away with oxygenate standards. They seem to be backtracking and I'm not sure why. We've kind of been fighting big oil since the '70s and '80s when ethanol was taking off. Big oil doesn't want to market anything they don't control."

BIODIESEL TRADE ACTION

In other biofuels news, the International Trade Commission voted unanimously in favor of the National Biodiesel Board Fair Trade Coalition's position that subsidized imports of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia have hurt producers in the United States.

"This affirmative vote on injury, coupled with last month's final countervailing duties determination by the commerce department, paves the way for final countervailing duty orders by the end of December," the NBB said in a news release on Tuesday.

In November, biodiesel producers testified to the ITC about how those imports affected the U.S. industry. If the U.S. Department of Commerce makes a final determination on dumping, then the ITC will need to vote early next year on the question of dumping.

The NBB filed petitions with the DOC and the ITC in March to address what the NBB said was a flood of subsidized and dumped imports from Argentina and Indonesia that "has resulted in market share losses and depressed prices for domestic producers."

CELLULOSIC DEVELOPMENT

Mid America Agri Products' ethanol plant in Madrid, Nebraska, received pathway approval from the EPA this week to produce cellulosic ethanol at the 48-million-gallon plant, using Edeniq, Inc.'s pathway technology, according to a news release from Edeniq.

The company told DTN in an interview this fall it was poised to expand the number of corn-ethanol plants using the technology at a rapid pace in the coming year.

Edeniq's technology uses enzymes that maximize conversion of corn kernel fiber into fermentable sugar, and has the ability to measure the output of cellulosic ethanol production. The EPA's approval allows for the Nebraska plant to generate cellulosic renewable identification numbers, or RIN, through the RFS.

Edeniq's first customer was Pacific Ethanol in 2016. In January 2017, Marcus, Iowa,-based corn-ethanol producer Little Sioux Corn Processors received EPA approval for a D3 cellulosic ethanol registration using the Edeniq system. The California Air Resources Board also gave final approval for Little Sioux to sell cellulosic gallons in the state to take advantage of its low-carbon fuel standard.

On Oct. 12, 2017, the EPA approved what was Edeniq's fifth RFS pathway, with Flint Hills Resources' registration of its 100-million-gallon, Iowa Falls, Iowa, corn-ethanol plant.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow me on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

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