Q&A: RFS and EPA

With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Q: What’s the progress report since the EPA approved year-round sales of E15?

A: At the start of the busy driving season, the Trump administration approved year-round sales of gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol, ending the summer ban on the retail sales of E15. The ruling delivered welcome news for Iowa farmers and gave consumers a clean-burning, homegrown fuel choice when they pulled up to the pump this summer. For many years, I have championed renewable fuels policy on behalf of Rural America. Renewable biofuels are good, good, good. My motto rings as true today as it did when I first secured incentives to help grow the industry decades ago. According to a 2017 USDA report studying the lifecycle greenhouse gas balance of corn ethanol, its carbon emissions are approximately 43 percent lower than traditional gasoline. In addition to its positive benefit for a cleaner, healthier environment, biofuels pump up the farm economy and fuel economic growth and job creation across Rural America. E15 is sold at more than 2,000 locations in the United States and the list is growing. Since the Trump administration lifted the outmoded regulation in late May, consumers have driven up sales of E15 by more than 46 percent. Like I’ve always said, ethanol is good, good, good. It’s good for energy diversity, the environment and the economy. Year-round E15 gives consumers an affordable, cleaner fuel choice and adds value to every bushel of corn harvested by America’s hardworking farmers.

Q: How can Iowans deliver a message to the EPA about the RFS?

A: Congress passed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2005 to boost homegrown energy and reduce U.S dependence on fossil fuels. To help break open Big Oil’s stranglehold on the fuel supply and give green choices to consumers, it requires oil refiners to mix biofuels, like ethanol and biodiesel, into part of the nation’s fuel supply, or alternatively, buy credits from energy companies who do so. Over the years, I have battled Big Oil tooth and nail to ensure the federal law is implemented as intended. As a long-time champion for Rural America, I raise my voice loud and proud on behalf of farmers, corn processors, biofuels producers, retailers and workers all along the supply chain. The fossil fuel industry resents the loss of market share when consumers choose to fill up their tanks with renewable biofuels, including corn-based ethanol and biodiesel. Since the Obama administration, Big Oil has lobbied the EPA to issue waivers that release refineries from their federal obligations with the RFS. Unfortunately, the EPA is handing out the so-called small refinery exemptions (SRE) like candy. It’s laughable that some of the most profitable global energy giants on the planet are able to persuade the EPA to cave in and hand out these carve outs. Again, the EPA must faithfully execute the law as Congress intended. It is tasked with setting the RFS – the annual amount of biofuels to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. By letting more than 30 refineries off the hook from the RFS, the EPA has effectively cut demand for hundreds of millions of bushels of grain. These waivers have contributed to the closure or idled production for nearly 30 biofuels facilities in the United States, and counting.

I’m working with a bipartisan farm-state coalition, including Governor Kim Reynolds and Senator Joni Ernst, to stop the sweetheart deals cooked up between the EPA and Big Oil. We strongly support President Trump’s promise to uphold the RFS and I’ve participated in meetings at the White House to fix this mess. On October 15, the EPA released a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking. Once again, the EPA fell short of the mark as the rule does not live up to the September agreement we reached in the White House. In a nutshell, the proposal doesn’t use real world data on EPA’s past actions to predict future behavior when accounting for exemptions EPA is expected to give going forward. The proposal uses a three-year rolling average of Department of Energy (DOE) recommended exemptions to the annual targets called Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs). Given EPA’s track record of waiving gallons well in excess of DOE’s recommendations, this does not provide the certainty that’s needed to reverse the slowdown in the renewable fuels industry and provide the needed boost to corn and soybean farmers.

That’s why it’s more important than ever for Iowans to weigh in during the public comment process. The deadline closes Nov. 29. Join me and tell the EPA to fully restore every last drop lost to the refinery exemptions. When the RFS is set at 15 billion gallons, it means 15 billion gallons.

Submit comments by Nov. 29 deadline. All comments are public. The federal eRulemaking Portal is located online at http://www.regulations.gov. Comments must be identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2019-0136. Send postal mail to: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Docket Center, Office of Air and Radiation Docket, Mail Code 28221T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20004.