The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent decision to grant 31 small-refinery biofuel waivers is a huge blow to the ethanol industry and to South Dakota farmers. This decision destroys demand for 1.4 billion gallons of ethanol, lowering the Renewable Fuels Standard 10 percent. To put that in perspective, South Dakota plants produce one billion gallons annually.
The latest exemptions are in addition to 2.6 billion gallons destroyed through waivers the previous two years, including exemptions to refineries owned by oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron, and billionaire investor Carl Icahn.
The South Dakota Corn Growers Association has continually stressed to the EPA and President Trump how detrimental these waivers are to agriculture. Our congressional delegation has supported our cause. Ethanol organizations, the National Corn Growers, other state corn associations and farmers have all sent a loud and clear message to Washington.
But the EPA didn’t listen. It sided with Big Oil. At a time when U.S. farmers are suffering due to trade tariffs, weather problems and low prices, the EPA granted waivers that free prosperous refiners from their obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to blend biofuels like ethanol into their gasoline or purchase credits from others that do. The agency denied only 7 of 38 applications. That action shows a lack of commitment to the RFS, as well as a lack of commitment to farmers.
Brian Jennings, the American Coalition for Ethanol’s CEO, summed it up well.
“EPA’s refiner-win-at-all-costs oversight of the RFS is doing real damage to America’s farmers and renewable fuel producers who are already suffering from trade wars and volatile markets,” Jennings said. “The RFS is supposed to ensure the use of ethanol and biodiesel increases from one year to the next, but 85 small refinery exemptions later and over four billion waived gallons represents an enormous step backwards.”
Since President Trump took office, the EPA has more than quadrupled the number of waivers it has granted to refiners, saving the oil industry hundreds of millions of dollars and taking markets from corn farmers.
It’s unfathomable that the EPA would do this at a time when ethanol plants are struggling to stay profitable and some are idling production. These plants are critical to corn markets in this nation. Less ethanol means less corn grind.
Ethanol is the cleanest, cheapest fuel anywhere and the best source of octane. It’s better for the environment than fossil fuels.
Misuse of the biofuel waiver program undercuts ethanol demand. The EPA’s actions are limiting the ability to blend ethanol and dealing a serious blow to agriculture. This practice of granting unwarranted waivers needs to stop.