Ernst, Grassley vote against Menezes appointment over ethanol flap

    ethanol plant
    A flag flies at the Southeast Iowa Renewable Energy ethanol facility prior to a visit from President Donald Trump on June 11, 2019, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. With 4.35 billion gallons produced in 2018, Iowa leads the nation in ethanol production. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    U.S. Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley of Iowa on Tuesday cast two of the 16 votes against the confirmation of Mark Menezes as deputy secretary of energy.

    Sen. Joni Ernst speaks during a video her office produced about her tele-town hall on May 20, 2020.

    The two GOP senators from the nation’s top producer of both corn and ethanol said there were too many questions over the Trump administration’s handling of small refineries’ requests for waivers allowing them to buy less ethanol.

    Menezes was confirmed on a 79-16 vote.

    Given the uncertainty with the ‘gap year’ small refinery waivers, the wasted time and resources to score the waivers again, the lack of transparency in the entire process, and most importantly, the toll this has taken on Iowa’s farmers and biofuel producers, we could not in good faith support Mr. Menezes at this time,” Grassley and Ernst said in a statement

    U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is a Republican from New Hartford, Iowa.

    “Gap year” refers to the oil refineries’ applications for 52 new exemptions even though they failed to renew the waivers continuously as required. Grassley and Iowa ethanol industry representative Monte Shaw have been locked in a long battle with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who has argued that the oil industry is being hurt by the costs related to blending ethanol.

    In a letter to Menezes, Grassley and Ernst said they have learned of a half-dozen new exemption applications. They said granting the exemptions would hurt grain farms by making it hard to meet the nation’s goal for biofuels use. They asked that the federal government release the scoring documents for all exemption applications.

    Perry Beeman
    Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.