As the nation’s ethanol supply faces a 27 percent cut through the EPA’s proposed 2018 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), at least one U.S. senator issued an ultimatum to EPA head Scott Pruitt this week: back off ethanol or face political fallout.
U.S. Senators and Republicans Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, both of whom represent ethanol-rich Iowa, met with Pruitt for about an hour Tuesday in Grassley’s Senate office. They were joined by Nebraska Republican Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse.
Grassley reminded Pruitt that President Trump has consistently supported ethanol, both during and after his presidential campaign. Grassley also informed Pruitt that he could stall confirmations for EPA nominees if he remains dedicated to reducing ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply.
“In the Midwest, this is a very important political issue,” Grassley told The Hill and went on to recall a conversation he had with the president.
“He said, ‘you know, I campaigned on, promised ethanol, and I want you to tell the people of Iowa I’m still for ethanol.'” Grassley continued. “So I reiterated this story to Mr. Pruitt and said, you can get in the weeds about what you ought to do or not do as a way of policy, but this is an issue of the president keeping his promise to the people.”
Pruitt has proposed lowering the RFS requirement for cellulosic ethanol for the first time to 238 million gallons next year, a drop of 73 million gallons from the RFS requirement set in 2017. Advanced biofuel (namely renewable diesel) may also get chopped in 2018 to 4.24 billion gallons, a slight decrease from 4.28 billion gallons in 2017. Not all the fuels were hit with proposed cuts. Biomass-based diesel (biodiesel) has a suggested RFS uptick from 2 billion gallons in 2017 to 2.1 billion gallons in 2018.
Ernst suggested that the meeting with Pruitt was less than productive.
“Administrator Pruitt again claimed today that he will not do anything to undermine the program. However, we have heard this before. We now need to see it,” she said.
Sasse was more optimistic.
“I think he listened well in understanding the concern of agriculture states and people who are living in production environments,” he said.