We’ve been following the unfortunately close relationship between President Trump and the ethanol lobby since the early days of his administration and the news has generally not been good. Most recently, we looked at how both the oil and gas industry and environmental activists have been highly critical of Trump’s tremendous gift to King Corn. That was the recent move to lift the ban on sales of E15 blended gasoline during the warmer summer months.
That’s yet another battle we lost, so you’d think that the people in corn country would be pretty satisfied with Donald Trump at the moment and perhaps even display a little gratitude. Nope. Think again. Getting the E15 gift was nice, but during the President’s recent trip to Iowa, he was reminded that they need him to stop issuing waivers to smaller refineries over the Renewable Fuel Standard so they can shove every drop of ethanol possible into the nation’s gasoline supply.
President Trump is only as good for farmers in Iowa as the “second promise” he keeps for the ethanol industry, say lobbyists for the corn-based fuel.
The first promise was securing a market for 15% ethanol blends to be sold all year. The second promise is making sure the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t upend the market for ethanol by approving 39 pending exemptions for the oil industry not to blend the renewable fuel…
“We could not have asked for a better E15 rule,” said Monte Shaw, CEO of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. But it is the “second promise” that the farmers in rural America are waiting on Trump to keep.
This is just incredible. The Iowa contingent was just handed a huge victory, particularly when you consider that it came at the expense of the environment and we recently learned that ethanol isn’t doing much to lower either gas prices or emissions. But is that enough for them? Nope. The President is being told that Iowa won’t be satisfied unless they get everything they want, including an and to RFS exemptions for smaller refineries that are being bankrupted by the massive scam known as the Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credit market.
The problem is that the President tends to keep listening to them. He directs the EPA to take their side nearly every time. Those exemptions were the only time that he seemed interested in finding some sort of compromise between King Corn and all of the people working in and relying on the oil and gas industry. If they manage to twist his arm on this issue and get their way, there will be long term consequences, both inside the industry and politically.
If you’re wondering how politics intersects with energy policy in this discussion, consider who is being courted here. All of the benefits are going to Iowa and Illinois. (And the President isn’t going to carry Illinois, so we’re really just talking about the Hawkeyes here.) Conversely, the majority of the damage from these policies is crashing down on states with plenty of refineries, like Pennsylvania and Texas.
Iowa’s primary value to politicians is sustained by their early placement in the primaries, but Trump no longer needs to worry about any primary contests. He should be focusing on the general election. Iowa has six electoral votes. Pennsylvania has twenty and Trump only carried the state by the skin of his teeth last time. Texas has 38 and the last time I checked, Joe Biden is basically tied with him there, if not leading.
Even if the ethanol lobby is powerful enough to throw a childish fit and abandon Trump in 2020 over this, how important are those six electoral college votes if Pennsylvania and perhaps even Texas slip away? Yes, it’s important for the President to remember who his friends are, but he certainly doesn’t need to be making any new enemies either. He needs to think this through and stop letting Iowa dictate his policy decisions for him.