Trump to allow use of ethanol gas in move to benefit farmers

Trump to allow use of ethanol gas in move to benefit farmers
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The Trump administration has finalized a plan that will allow higher ethanol gasoline to be sold in summer months, a decision that is likely to draw concern from environmentalists who say the fuel is harmful in warm temperatures.

The decision announced by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials Friday also signals a move President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE is taking to appease corn farmers, many of whom have been hit hard by recent Chinese trade tariffs.

Through the finalized plan, refineries will be able to mix gasoline with 15 percent ethanol, or E15, year-round, or buy an equal amount of fuel credits called renewable identification numbers (RINs).

Previously, E15 was restricted under air pollution requirements between June 1 and Sept. 15, as science shows burning ethanol in warmer temperatures leads to heightened ground-level ozone pollution and smog. The new plan will effectively lift those sales barriers by removing a regulatory barrier on fuel evaporation that EPA officials say should not extend to E15.

Trump has long hinted at his plans to expand the ethanol market, a promise he first made during his presidential campaign. Last July, he said he was “very close” to allowing higher ethanol content in gasoline.

The president is expected to visit Iowa in June to attend a Republican Party fundraiser along with Iowa members of Congress Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstBill Maher says he's 'glad' David Koch is dead Five things to know about David Koch A cash advance to consider MORE (R), Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces White House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord MORE (R) and Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingKing doubles down, says rape, incest should not be factored in to abortion decisions Steve King defends remarks on rape, incest The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters MORE (R) — all lawmakers who have championed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and called for an increase to E15. The state is a key state for 2020 candidates, as Iowa is the first state to hold its presidential primary nominating contest.

Bill Wehrum, assistant administrator​ for the Office of Air and Radiation at EPA, said Friday’s decision was in line with Trump’s wishes.

“We’re doing this because it’s a very important presidential priority. Trump has embraced the RFS. He has taken a lot of personal time talking to us and other parties. He is personally convinced that the measures rolled out today will help all around,” Wehrum told reporters on a call.

Environmentalist groups view year-round use of E15 as a major health concern and a breach of the Clean Air Act. Many groups have vowed to sue.

“Allowing the year-round sale of E15 gasoline is both illegal under the Clean Air Act and will accelerate the destruction of wildlife habitat and pollution of our air, and drinking water," said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation

"Instead of undermining public health protections, the White House should focus on using the EPA’s upcoming rewrite of the ethanol mandate to promote cleaner, more sustainable fuels that support the rural economy while also protecting our air, drinking water, and wildlife habitat."

The EPA first announced the proposed E15 rule in March. The White House last October directed the agency to initiate rulemaking to expand waivers for E15 and change the way RINs were traded on the market.

The expansion of E15, announced at the beginning of the summer driving season, is anticipated to largely benefit corn farmers, by creating a bigger market for their crops.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin Perdue70 mayors sign letter opposing Trump proposal that would restrict access to food stamps USDA eases relocation timeline as researchers flee agency The Hill's Morning Report - How will Trump be received in Dayton and El Paso? MORE called the decision clear support for farmers.

“I appreciate President Trump’s steadfast support for our patriotic farmers and for his commitment to expand the sale of E15 and unleash the full potential of American innovation and ingenuity as we continue to demonstrate our rightful place as the world’s leader in agricultural and energy production,” Perdue said in a statement.

Wehrum said the new rule would also allow the renewable fuels market to expand.

“Now we are at the point where the market is saturated with E10, and to blend more ethanol into the market we have to go above E10,” Wehrum said, pointing to the most common blend of year-round gas with a percentage of 10 percent ethanol.

The plan additionally aims to better regulate the RIN market in an attempt to make sure there is no manipulation of credit pricing. While EPA officials said they have not seen evidence of outside manipulation, they hope the new controls would make it easier to study the claims. Specifically, the changes will make it harder for refiners to trade RINs. The administration’s RIN reform would include requiring public disclosure of RINs, limit the length of time that nonrefineries or importers can hold a RIN and improve compliance obligations on a more frequent basis.

That portion of the rule is expected to please refiners, many which have protested the expansion of E15.

Wehrum said the expanded use of E15 in the summer months would not lead to significant increases in air pollution because E10 has already been sold in those months. While acknowledging that E15 will increase tailpipe emissions slightly, he said the fuel would not largely increase fuel evaporation.

“At the end of the day, from an environmental standpoint this doesn’t make any significant difference,” he said.