The ethanol wars between King Corn and the oil and gas industry continue, with the corn faction finding a new champion this month in the person of Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois). It shouldn’t come as any surprise that she’s teaming up with Senators Ernst and Grassley since Illinois is the third largest ethanol producer in the country. The fight is still going on over the EPA granting waivers to smaller refineries from the ethanol blending requirements in the Renewable Fuel Standard, but Duckworth is raising the stakes. She’s asking the EPA’s Inspector General to investigate whether or not Trump’s EPA broke the law by granting these waivers. (Washington Examiner)
Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth asked the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general Thursday to investigate whether the agency broke the law in granting dozens of waivers to the oil industry to not blend corn ethanol into the gasoline supply.
Duckworth said new documents show that EPA has deceived members of Congress about its reasons for granting 35 small refinery exemptions in the last two years, compared to the seven granted under the Obama administration.
“Recent document disclosures reveal that the EPA misled Members of Congress, industry and the public,” the senator said in a letter to EPA acting Inspector General Charles Sheehan. “This deception by EPA political appointees may indicate improper motives and conflicts of interest, and it warrants a thorough review.”
The number of things wrong with this story and the coverage it’s receiving is staggering, but let’s just get the big ticket items out of the way. First of all, there’s nothing illegal about the EPA issuing these waivers. Perhaps the Senator has never read the pertinent regulations, but the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) includes specific language granting the EPA the ability to issue waivers “if they prove that compliance would cause disproportionate hardship.” Such hardship is generally faced by smaller, older refineries that lack the capability to blend ethanol or lack the capacity to blend it at the continually increasing levels demanded under the RFS.
Secondly, Duckworth is making the claim that Trump’s EPA has granted 35 exemptions (waivers) while only seven were granted during the Obama administration. That figure is being repeated by multiple news outlets. But EPA records show that the EPA granted 14 in 2015 and 20 in 2016. (For those who were promised there would be no math, that’s only one less than the Trump administration granted in its first two years.)
Duckworth is also complaining that some of the waivers shouldn’t have been granted because they were given to refineries “attached to large oil companies such as Exxon.” The implication here is that the big oil companies don’t have those limitations on ethanol blending like the older, small outfits. But even the big companies that run a lot of refineries have some smaller, older plants in their portfolio. And those have the same limitations as the ones owned by the smaller companies.
The reality here is that Duckworth, just like Grassley and Ernst (this is a bipartisan problem), are in the pocket of the ethanol lobby and continually seek to prop up the corn and soybean growers while trying to use the power of the government to damage the oil and gas industry. They don’t want to have the waivers issued because they know it will lead to more artificial, government-mandated demand for ethanol while bankrupting refineries, literally in some cases. This request for an investigation is a partisan ploy, working at the expense of private industry.