The Trump administration announced Friday it plans to implement new rules that will increase demand for ethanol, reversing a decline caused by exemptions given to oil refineries.
The new Renewable Fuels Standard follows months of complaints by Midwest farmers, politicians and the ethanol industry that the federal government's granting of waivers to refiners had violated federal law and forced some ethanol plants to close.
In a joint news release, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency said they will propose and request public comment on expanding biofuel requirements beginning next year that will mandate the use of at least 15 billion gallons of ethanol in the nation's fuel supply even after accounting for waivers for small refineries.
The granting of waivers, of which there have been more than 80 under the Trump administration, including 31 this year, has been a sore spot with corn growers and ethanol producers.
Farmers and biofuels producers have blamed the waivers as playing a big role in a spate of ethanol plant closures across the Midwest this year.
In a joint statement, the Nebraska Corn Board and the Nebraska Corn Growers Association thanked the Trump administration for following through in its commitment.
“We’ve been waiting for a reallocation of waived gallons for a long time,” Dan Nerud, president of the Nebraska Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Dorchester, said in the release. “To say we were upset with the refinery waivers is an understatement, so today’s announcement is welcome news.”
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In a news release, Sen. Deb Fischer, who is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said accounting for refinery waivers provides farmers and ethanol producers with more certainty.
Fischer, along with other Midwestern senators, and state officials, had lobbied the president as well as officials from the EPA and USDA to account for the waivers.
“In my discussions with the president, I fought hard for a fair deal for Nebraska’s farmers and ethanol producers," Fischer said in the release. "I thank the president for following through on his commitment to rural America."
Gov. Pete Ricketts also praised the president.
“Ensuring RVOs (Renewable Volume Obligations) do not go below 15 billion gallons and expanding access to E15 will bolster the RFS (Renewable Fuels Standard) and ethanol production at a critical time for our nation’s rural economy, which has been suffering from low commodity prices,” he said in a news release. “Thank you to President Trump for taking these important steps for ethanol and our great farm families!”
Sen. Ben Sasse said the deal gives Nebraska farmers "clarity."
“This is good news for Nebraska farmers and producers," he said in a news release. "The President and I have talked repeatedly about how important it is for our farmers to have clarity, and I’m glad that he’s focused on this issue. This is a tough time for agriculture, but Nebraskans are grateful that the EPA is committed to E-15 being available year-round and following the law when it comes to small refinery exemptions. Nebraskans deserve this.”
Friday's announcement also said the EPA will initiate a rule-making process to streamline labeling and remove other barriers to the year-round sale of E-15 gasoline.