Trump caves on year-round ethanol. King Corn still rules

We had previously heard rumblings that the President had been toying with this idea, but with the midterms fast approaching it’s apparently going to happen. I’m referring to President Trump’s ill-conceived plan to abandon long-standing EPA policy and allow the sale of E15 ethanol blend gasoline all year. (It’s currently limited such that E15 can’t be sold during the summer months.) There’s really only one reason for the President to do this, and Politico points out the obvious. This is all about Iowa politics.

President Donald Trump has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to expand sales of corn ethanol, a senior White House official said on Monday, delivering a gift to farm state Republicans a month before the midterm elections.

The move ends months of bitter behind-the-scenes fighting between corn backers and the oil industry over Trump’s calls to increase ethanol sales, and it could benefit Iowa’s Republican governor, who is trailing her Democratic challenger in the polls, as well as at least two Iowa House incumbents who are also vulnerable. But the oil industry’s most powerful trade group immediately said it will fight to block the action.

Trump is expected to announce the change on Tuesday in Washington before leaving for a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

This order has nothing to do with science or even the economy, beyond a marginal fraction of sales in one specific sector. This is a gift to Iowa politicians who all serve in the court of King Corn. And Trump’s continued refusal to revamp (or preferably eliminate) the Renewable Fuel Standard is a disservice to consumers across the nation, representing more government regulation serving no purpose beyond localized political gain.

The statement from Chet Thompson, President and CEO of The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) on this White House E15 announcement sums things up nicely.

“The President’s proposal to waive the rules for E15 is unlawful and could actually make the problems of the Renewable Fuel Standard worse. The President has promised to broker a deal to reform the RFS that works for all stakeholders. This isn’t it. We are disappointed to see that despite good-faith efforts by refiners to find potential solutions, the Administration has unilaterally embraced a one-sided approach that only serves the ethanol community, which has shown little interest in finding common ground.

We urge the President and Acting Administrator Wheeler to abandon this ill-conceived idea and instead take meaningful action that addresses the real problems with the RFS.”

I wrote about this destructive plan back in July when Trump first started suggesting it, explaining why it’s such a terrible idea. Pro-ethanol schemes like this always seem to come up right before he makes a trip to Iowa, as is the case again this week. It may be true that a couple of Republicans in Iowa are in tight races, but if they lose it’s not going to be because of EPA policy. Neither the Governor nor the members of Congress from Iowa have any control over what the EPA does. It’s all on Trump’s shoulders. Tossing them a gift like this isn’t going to save their bacon.

President Trump won’t be facing a serious primary challenge in 2020 so he doesn’t need to worry about carrying Iowa then. The help it offers to GOP candidates in the state is minimal. And it’s just a bad idea in terms of both science and responsible regulatory restraint for consumers. This will do nothing but give the President another applause line during his rally there. Is it really worth it for fifteen seconds of clapping?