Trump signals support for changing summer ethanol policy

Trump signals support for changing summer ethanol policy

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE signaled support Thursday for changing a biofuels policy that currently limits the percentage of ethanol used in summer months.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump promised that the administration would allow E15 fuel — a gasoline mixture that's 15 percent ethanol — to be sold year-round.

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It's a topic that rises nearly every summer, when EPA regulations mandate gas stations to swap out gasoline mixes with higher levels of ethanol for lower levels in order to comply with Environmental Protection Agency regulations that limit ground-level ozone. Current policies limit the sale of E15 in summer months because in warmer termperatures ethanol increases the amount of ground-level ozone.

"We’re going to raise it up to 15 percent and raise it to a 12-month period," Trump said.

Trump's comments to lift the federal limit were quickly hailed by biofuels groups that have long advocated for the policy change. 

“We applaud President Trump for embracing a common-sense fix to create a level playing field for cleaner, more affordable fuel options during the summer driving season," said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor in a statement. "The White House clearly understands that RVP relief will expand a growing market for America’s farmers while letting consumers pick the fuel of their choice. This simple fix allows retailers to offer better options alongside traditional blends all year long."

Trump's comments come as the administration is also weighing whether to change the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which mandates refiners to blend certain amounts of ethanol and other biofuels into their fossil fuels or buy renewable fuel credits on an open market. Biofuel companies support maintaining it as is, while oil and gas companies argue current standards are hurting their bottom line.

The topic of oil versus ethanol has Republicans split.

In February Trump called a meeting with congressional representatives for both industries — GOP Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington The Hill's Morning Report - Lawmakers return to work as Dem candidates set to debate MORE (Texas) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyNSA improperly collected US phone records in October, new documents show Overnight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns MORE (Pa.) representing oil-heavy states and Iowa Sens. Joni Ernest and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump's latest plan to boost ethanol miffs both corn groups and the fossil fuel industry Syria furor underscores Trump's isolation GOP braces for impeachment brawl MORE representing ethanol. The members failed to come to an agreement.

Trump's comments Thursday have ethanol groups hoping that he will also support their side of the RFS debate.

“Refiners have held E15 hostage for years, and they always want more," said Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council. "For this to help farm families, it will be important that the White House continues to steer clear of refiner-backed changes that would gut the RFS."

Earlier today Trump held a roundtable talk on agriculture with Governors and members of Congress at the White House.