We will embrace only cautious optimism until the ink is dry on final new rules expected sometime before the end of next month, but positive signs related to the Renewable Fuel Standard and, by extension, Midwest farm states like Iowa emerged last week.
- On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported: "President Donald Trump intervened personally with the Environmental Protection Agency amid pressure from Republicans in the politically important state of Iowa who worried the agency was poised to weaken biofuel quotas, three people familiar with the discussions said. Trump directed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to back off any changes that would dilute a federal mandate for biofuel use, the people said."
- After phone calls with both Trump and Pruitt on Wednesday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said: "I had a very productive call with President Trump. Both of them (Trump and Pruitt) affirmed to me their continued commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard."
- In a letter to Iowa Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst, as well as other lawmakers, Pruitt wrote: “My responsibility as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is to faithfully administer the laws passed by the U.S. Congress. This agency must and will respect those laws."
In response to the letter, Ernst on Thursday night said: "Over the last few weeks, I had serious concerns about the EPA following the spirit and the letter of the RFS, which I made clear to my committee colleagues, the EPA and the White House. Tonight, I’m pleased to see these commitments from EPA Administrator Pruitt to uphold the RFS as intended by Congress.”
On Friday, Grassley responded: “It’s a great day for Iowa and a great day for rural America."
The federal RFS began with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and was expanded and extended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. It requires transportation fuel sold in the U.S. be blended with a minimum volume of renewable fuels.
On July 5, the EPA issued proposed RFS volume requirements for total renewable fuel, cellulosic biofuel and advanced biofuel for 2018 and a proposed volume requirement for biomass-based diesel for 2019. Key pieces of the announcement included:
- The EPA proposed to keep the conventional ethanol requirement of 15 billion gallons the same in 2018.
- The EPA proposed decreases in the cellulosic biofuel requirement from 311 million gallons to 238 million gallons and the advanced biofuel requirement from 4.28 billion gallons to 4.24 billion gallons in 2018.
- The EPA proposed no increase in the biodiesel requirement of 2.1 billion gallons between 2018 and 2019.
Perhaps no state is impacted by RFS rules more than Iowa, the No. 1 producer of ethanol and biodiesel in America. Because we wish to see stability and expansion within an industry not only important to the future of agriculture states like ours, but to the future of America because it helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduces dependence on foreign oil, we stand with supporters of renewable fuels in urging robust blending targets and no reductions in volume requirements under the RFS moving forward.
In a July 23 editorial, we urged our elected state and congressional representatives to take a leadership role in defending the RFS in response to the EPA's proposed new rules. To their credit, those leaders - in particular, we cite strong advocacy by Reynolds, Grassley and Ernst - appear to be making a difference.
Today, the landscape looks positive for favorable final rules. Until the decision is announced, though, we encourage elected leaders, as well as industry leaders, to take nothing for granted and continue holding the Trump administration's feet to the fire.