President Donald Trump is expected to announce a new policy soon that would allow gas blended with ethanol to be sold year-round as midterm elections near, E&E News reported Wednesday.
The policy has long been pushed by biofuel makers and Republicans from corn-growing states who are facing tough re-election bids, the report noted, citing several anonymous sources. Any move to expand the ethanol policy will likely put acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a bind.
Corn growers have long advocated for gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, or E15, to be sold during the summer months. Oil companies oppose the move mainly because it would reduce gasoline sales. Trump is currently wrestling with the prospect of major Democratic gains in the so-called Corn Belt.
One of Trump’s top officials is planning to visit Iowa or Indiana and reveal the new EPA proposal that would issue a Clean Air Act waiver, which would effectively allow for year-round sales of E15, sources told E&E News.
The biofuels industry and its congressional supporters believe such a move would help blunt the impact of the Trump administration’s trade policies, especially splash back from the president’s decision to slap tariffs on Chinese goods.
China retaliated to Trump’s protectionist gambit with tariffs against U.S. corn. “Things are pretty bleak in farm country today,” Geoff Cooper, a Renewable Fuels Association executive, told E&E in an interview.
He added: “Farmers and biofuels producers alike are looking to their elected officials for help and assurance that things are going to get better.”
Lawmakers frequently bicker over the ethanol industry, with Iowa Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst criticizing the EPA in 2017 for etching out waivers for some oil refineries. Other Republicans — Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, for instance — are more sympathetic to the oil industry’s plight.
Republican lawmakers threatened to scuttle Trump’s EPA nominees in October 2017 after reports suggested the agency planned on reducing biofuels that are mixed in with gasoline. (RELATED: GOP Threatens To Nuke Trump’s EPA’s Nominees Over Biofuels Deal)
Grassley said at the time that “plenty of senators” were considering opposing Trump EPA picks unless the agency backed off plans to dial down the renewable fuel standard (RFS). Former agency Administrator Scott Pruitt floated the idea of dramatically reducing the RFS before leaving office.
Grassley was willing to hold up the nomination of Michael Dourson, who Trump picked to run the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and Bill Wehrum, a former EPA official the president tabbed to run the agency’s air office.
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