We were sending up the red flags about this move by the EPA back in March, but it appears that King Corn has scored another victory at the agency and the Trump administration has backed out of a compromise they offered earlier. After a remarkably short period of review and public comment, the EPA has moved to allow year-round sales of E-15 blended gasoline, despite serious concerns over the implications of this change. For those not aware, E-15 has 50% more ethanol in it than the normal E-10 mixture previously allowed to be sold during the warmer summer months. (Washington Examiner)
The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday officially opened up year-round sales of higher ethanol fuel blends, called E15, fulfilling a promise President Trump made to Iowa corn farmers.
Trump has firmly backed the year-round sale of 15% ethanol fuel, despite opposition by the oil industry and refiners who argue the fuel would harm vehicle engines.
The E15 rule, a boon to corn farmers, follows billions of dollars the administration has doled out to farmers as compensation for the losses they’ve suffered from tariffs imposed in the trade war with China.
The issues surrounding the ethanol lobby, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the dubious market built around Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) continues to be one of the most disappointing aspects of the Trump administration. And this new accommodation offered up to win the political favor of a few corn-growing states just reinforces that perception.
When this foolish plan was first brought up, the White House offered to somewhat soften the blow with a compromise. They were to open an investigation of the RIN market and monitor it for abuses costing smaller oil refineries millions of dollars per year. But when the new rule was announced on Friday, the compromise disappeared and no such effort was put in place. This was yet another betrayal of the President’s many supporters in states with numerous jobs in the oil and gas industry.
As I brought up in my column back in March (linked above), the rule change itself is unwise on many levels. It’s long been known that in addition to being a poor fuel compared to gasoline, the combustion of ethanol leads to significant increases in smog levels when temperatures are warmer. The higher ethanol levels in gasoline also lead to increased damage to marine motors, coming at a time when boating activity is at its highest across the country. To avoid that outcome, boaters have to resort to using more ethanol removal products or seek out more expensive, ethanol-free gas.
I get that the President made certain promises to the ethanol lobby in Iowa because he wanted to win the election. But he’s long since made good on those promises, to the dismay of many other politically important states where refineries operate. Perhaps he should be considering the following question. Is it really a viable strategy to keep dumping favors on Iowa if it winds up costing you Pennsylvania and part of the Gulf Coast in the process?