2020 Biofuel Plan Draws Critics

Michigan public hearing elicits more negative comments.

November 01, 2019

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The Trump Administration is feeling the heat from corn farmers, ethanol producers, refinery representatives, energy traders and state and local officials from the Midwest who don’t like the White House’s proposed biofuels plan for next year, according to the New York Times.

Those opinions were expressed on Wednesday during an EPA public hearing in Ann Arbor. It was the second public hearing this week, which aired the grievances of the opposing oil and corn constituencies that the president has been courting ahead of next year's election.

At issue is an EPA proposal unveiled this month that would increase the amount of corn-based ethanol some oil refineries must blend next year to make up for volumes the agency expects to waive under its Small Refinery Exemption program. The proposal aimed to please farmers, while securing a program the oil industry says is crucial to the survival of small oil refining facilities. It has instead drawn criticism from both sides.

The corn industry says it does not go far enough to help ailing biofuel producers, who are already suffering from the impact of the U.S.—China trade war. The oil industry insists the proposal is unfair to refineries that must do more blending. 

The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires the refining industry to add some 15 billion gallons of ethanol every year to its gasoline, along with additional volumes of other types of biofuels. But small individual facilities of 75,000 barrels per day or less can secure exemptions from the RFS in a confidential process if they can prove compliance would cause them disproportionate economic harm.

The EPA has roughly quadrupled the number of waivers granted to small refiners since Trump took office. That has angered the corn industry, which says the exemptions hurt farmers by cutting ethanol blending volumes. The EPA wants to finalize 2020 blending requirements by an end-November deadline.