Biofuels group blasts new ethanol-waiver requests

Ethanol is a hot topic in Iowa's 1st Congressional District race. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The number of small oil refineries asking to get out of a requirement to blend ethanol ballooned to 98 after federal officials said they would wait until after the election to make a decision. 

Emily Skor is CEO of Growth Energy, a biofuels trade organization. (Photo courtesy of Growth Energy)

Should President Donald Trump lose in his bid for re-election, he would still have a couple of months to act on the waivers, which small refineries have requested because they view the ethanol requirement as a financial hardship.

Ethanol interests have said the waivers reduce demand for the corn-based fuel additive, endangering an industry central to the Midwest economy. Reduced travel due to the coronavirus pandemic has reduced demand for both oil and ethanol. 

Industry group Growth Energy on Friday said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed nine new petitions from refiners.

A full-scale fight against the waivers has included pleas from U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, two of Trump’s GOP colleagues from Iowa. U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, has asked the EPA inspector general to investigate whether the EPA’s action have violated federal biofuels laws.

The requests include 67 that ask for retroactive permission to sidestep the blending or the purchase of credits, something that the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and farm groups have strongly opposed.

Head shot of Cindy Axne
U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne is a Democrat who represents Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District.

“Oil companies are pouring gasoline on the fire, while the EPA seems content to watch it burn,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said in a statement. “President Trump needs to put his foot down and demand the EPA send a clear signal to struggling rural communities that the demand destruction is over.”

“EPA must deny these exemptions without further delay,” Skor added.

Ernst pushed Trump on the issue when he visited Cedar Rapids Tuesday.

“I’ll speak to them myself,” Trump told Ernst. “I’ll do it myself.”

Trump didn’t elaborate as to what he would say to EPA officials.