Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler, please listen to your boss and approve year-round E15

In late July, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: Dems playing destructive 'con game' with Kavanaugh Several Yale Law classmates who backed Kavanaugh call for misconduct investigation Freedom Caucus calls on Rosenstein to testify or resign MORE told a group in Iowa that his administration was “very close” to fixing a decades-old regulatory barrier that prevents gas stations from selling 15 percent ethanol blends (E15) all year long. Currently, retail stations have to stop selling E15 during the busy summer months because of an antiquated and quirky EPA regulation that offers no environmental or economic benefit whatsoever.

For the sake of both consumers and Iowa’s farmers, we hope Mr. Trump was right. We hope EPA’s new acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, who visited Iowa earlier this week, acts swiftly to deliver on his boss’ promise of year-round E15.

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E15 is a win for drivers who would see lower costs and greater choice at the pump. And, year-round E15 is a win for Iowa’s farmers, who would see a badly needed demand boost for their corn. As Mr. Wheeler saw as he visited Iowa this week, it’s vitally important for his agency to deliver on the president’s pledge and finally approve year-round E15. After Mr. Wheeler’s predecessor, Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittKavanaugh’s fate rests with Sen. Collins Trump admin appeals ruling ordering EPA to ban pesticide Government watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response MORE, handed out waivers allowing some oil refiners to ignore their legal obligations to blend ethanol under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), Iowans need a signal that the new EPA will honor the president’s commitments to both fix the E15 barrier and protect the RFS. With both corn prices and ethanol profit margins sinking, such a signal is needed now more than ever.

The summertime ban on E15 stems from classic Washington red tape and bureaucracy. It blocks competition, kills jobs, and prevents Americans from accessing cleaner, lower-cost, higher octane fuel during the busiest travel period of the year. President Trump has promised to drain the swamp of cumbersome and unnecessary regulations that have hampered growth. It’s hard to imagine a better target. In fact, President Trump told reporters in April that the barrier that prevents E15 from being sold year-round is “unnecessary” and “ridiculous.” We couldn’t agree more and we urge Mr. Wheeler to listen to his boss and remove this barrier.

It’s not a theoretical fight -- EPA’s actions come at a real cost to American consumers. On top of already high gasoline prices, consumers who are blocked from accessing E15 are spending at least an extra seven cents per gallon on gasoline, translating into $6 billion--or approximately $80 per household--on a national basis, according to a recent Renewable Fuels Association analysis. That’s money that could be better spent on family vacations and other summertime activities.

Year-round E15 sales would also provide a significant boost to farmers here in Iowa and around the country. The ethanol industry is an important value-added market for corn growers and with another huge crop on the horizon, any additional market opportunities will help stimulate growth in rural America and help begin to counteract the prohibitive tariff and non-tariff trade barriers that China and other countries have placed on American agricultural products. 

Mr. Wheeler needs to follow the president’s direction by lifting the summertime restriction on E15 and ensuring the RFS is enforced. That would put consumers in the driver’s seat, giving them greater access to a cleaner, cheaper and higher-octane fuel, while simultaneously boosting rural America.

Steve Roe is General Manager of Little Sioux Corn Processors in Marcus, Iowa. He is also a board member of the Renewable Fuels Association.