The Trump administration announced new levels for renewable fuel use Wednesday, drawing a mixed reaction from Iowa lawmakers and industry groups.
The Environmental Protection Agency proposed that 15 billion gallons of conventional renewable fuels, which would include corn-based ethanol, be blended into the nation's fuel system in 2018, the same as this year, but it actually cut the amount of advanced biofuels for 2018 to 4.24 billion gallons, down from 4.28 billion this year.
The EPA said the new proposals, which are preliminary, are "consistent with market realities."
This is the first time the Trump administration has weighed in on targets for renewable fuels, an area that has consistently pitted renewable fuel groups against oil producers and refiners.
"We are proposing new volumes consistent with market realities focused on actual production and consumer demand while being cognizant of the challenges that exist in bringing advanced biofuels into the marketplace," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement announcing the results.
Industry groups praised the ethanol figure. Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said the 15 billion figure represents a campaign promise kept.
However, the levels for advanced biofuels drew concern and criticism. The biodiesel target for 2019 was set at 2.1 billion gallons, the same as the level EPA announced Wednesday for 2018.
"Unfortunately, a change in administrations did not change the EPA’s under appreciation for the potential of U.S. biodiesel production," Shaw said. "Keeping biodiesel levels frozen at 2.1 billion falls short of U.S. industry capabilities, even before imports are considered."
Tom Brooks, general manager of Western Dubuque Biodiesel in Farley, Iowa, and chair of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, said: “If these volumes stand, the U.S. could restrict one of its most powerful opportunities to support American manufacturing of energy." He and others said it was the first ever reduction in the category since creation of the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, in 2005.
Cellulosic biofuel targets would fall from 311 million gallons to 238 million next year, according to the EPA proposal.
The American Petroleum Institute applauded the EPA's announcement but said it didn't go far enough.
“Today’s proposal reaffirms the importance of RFS reform, as it is essential that Americans have access to fuels they want and can safely use in their vehicles," said the institute's Downstream Group Director Frank Macchiarola. "Congress must fix this broken, outdated program."
Across the political spectrum, reaction varied. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said the EPA is bringing predictability and stability to the renewable fuel industry, although she added, "I am disappointed biodiesel levels are not higher."
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said she was pleased with the ethanol figure but said there is room for growth in the biodiesel target. They both said they would continue to work to promote the industry.
The only Democrat in Iowa's congressional delegation, Rep. Dave Loebsack, said the new figures represented a betrayal by the president.
“For all of President Trump’s promises to fight for rural America, it appears he once again has turned his back on Iowa’s farmers and rural communities," he said. "Never in its history has the EPA reduced the amount of advanced biofuels required to be used in the U.S. under the Renewable Fuel Standard."
The EPA's proposal now opens up a comment period on the plan.