President Donald Trump and his environmental protection director are coming to Iowa to take an ethanol-fueled victory lap.
Trump and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler will tour a Council Bluffs ethanol plant on Tuesday. After the tour, Trump will deliver public remarks in which he is expected to highlight his administration’s move to allow for year-round sale of a specific blend of ethanol.
Wheeler said Monday in a phone interview that the administration worked to get the E15 ethanol blend’s year-round sale approved in time for the summer driving season.
“We are so happy to do it for the people of Iowa,” Wheeler said. “I certainly heard it when I was there at the (Iowa State Fair), and I remember how important it was to get E15 done, and I’m just really glad to get it done.”
Previously, the E15 blend of corn-based ethanol was not available during the summer months because of concerns the blend contributes to smog in hot temperatures.
Ethanol industry, farm and political leaders from Iowa have been pressing the Trump administration for year-round E15, which should drive demand for more corn and help boost prices. Iowa is the top corn-producing state in the nation.
“We thank the president for keeping his promise to remove the unnecessary and ridiculous regulatory barrier that prohibited the summertime use of E15 in most of the country,” Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said in a statement.
The federal mandate that a certain amount of ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply has sparked an ongoing tussle between agriculture and oil.
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The oil industry’s national organization has filed a legal motion to stop the E15 rule change.
And for as much as Iowa’s ethanol industry and political leaders are pleased with the year-round E15 approval, they also remain concerned with the EPA awarding exemptions that allow some oil refineries to skirt the ethanol mandate.
Wheeler said the EPA created a public, online database to provide transparency to the administration’s use of the ethanol waivers.
“We go through each one to make sure they are completely justified before we grant any of them,” Wheeler said of the waiver requests. “We aren’t doing blanket approvals.”
Wheeler also said he expects the year-round E15 approval will help offset the impact of any exemptions.
During the ethanol plant visit, Trump and Wheeler will be joined by Iowa and Nebraska governors Kim Reynolds and Pete Ricketts, and the state’s agriculture secretaries, Mike Naig and Steve Wellman, all Republicans.
U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, a Democrat who represents southwest Iowa in Congress, also plans to join the group and thank Trump for the administration’s year-round E15 approval and the recently approved federal disaster assistance package, Axne’s office said.
Axne also plans to highlight to the president the impact of the ethanol exemptions and the negative impact of trade wars on Iowa agriculture, her office said.
Trump also is scheduled to attend a political event Tuesday evening in West Des Moines, hosted by the Republican Party of Iowa.