The Environmental Protection Agency’s recent position that it lacks the authority to allow year-round sale of E15, or reinstate ethanol blending requirements that were lost after the administration granted ethanol production waivers to oil refineries, has farmers turning to President Donald Trump for answers.
“The President has repeatedly voiced support for American farmers, renewable fuels and promised us E15 year-round,” said Mark Watne, president of North Dakota Farmers Union. “Where is that support now? This about-face only kicks us more when we are already down.”
In addition to the trade war, Watne said farmers have felt the loss of income due to decreased demand for biofuels, especially corn ethanol. “Ethanol drives the demand for corn, and corn helps increase commodity prices,” he said, noting that the administration’s granting of “financial hardship” waivers to oil refineries has cut demand for biofuels by 2.25 billion gallons in 2016 and 2017 alone.
The waivers were meant for small oil refineries that were under financial distress, allowing them to reduce their production of biofuels and circumvent Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirements. But some of those waivers are questionable and should be reversed, Watne said, citing a waiver to an Exxon Mobil-owned refinery last year. Exxon is the nation’s largest oil and gas company that reported earnings of more than $20 billion in 2017.
“The loss of market by these waivers hurts farmers, not to mention the environment and reduction in harmful emissions,” Watne said. “If EPA won’t restore RFS requirements, the administration needs to find offsets to the hole they created in our market. E15 can be one part of that solution and we should be testing and looking at E30.”
Watne said national energy labs have demonstrated that high-octane blends, such as E30, do not impair performance in non-flex fuel or standard vehicles. He said E30 provides the most efficiency and benefits to the environment, while meeting the octane levels needed for better efficiency in the auto industry.