Trump is totally caving on the ethanol question... again

One of the more disappointing aspects of Donald Trump’s presidency, at least for me, has been his continued support for both the execrable Renewable Fuel Standard and the ethanol lobby, particularly in Iowa. Sadly, in a pre-October surprise, the President has handed yet another gift to those players while dealing yet another blow to America’s drivers, boaters and the fossil fuel industry. This weekend, Trump approved the use of gas pumps designated for 10% ethanol blends for E15, or 15% blends, subject to state approval. The political component of this decision doesn’t even make much sense, to say nothing of the confusion it will cause among consumers and potential, costly damage to small engines and marine motors. And yet, here we are. (Market Watch)

President Donald Trump on Saturday offered a boost to the ethanol industry as he courts farmers and biofuel producers in Midwestern swing states before the November election. Trump has approved using existing filling station pumps to distribute higher-ethanol gasoline.

“Subject only to State approval, our important Ethanol Industry will be allowed to use the 10% Pumps for the 15% BLEND,” Trump tweeted.

The administration’s announcement followed a conversation Trump had with Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who’s been pushing for the change as she seeks re-election. Ernst, in her own tweet, welcomed the news.

But some rural voters groups remained wary of what they argue historically has been Trump’s backing of the oil industry at the expense of promoting alternative fuels and said the decision from the president had been a long time coming.

We’ve discussed the potential damage and increased costs associated with E15 here in the past often enough that most of you are likely up to date on the subject. But this obviously has little or nothing to do with smart energy policies. It’s a strictly political move and one that is likely to backfire on the President. The obvious nature of this announcement was immediately picked up on by a spokesperson for Rural America 2020, a leftist group ostensibly lobbying for the benefit of farmers and other residents of rural areas. Chris Gibbs described the announcement as “little more than an election-year gambit.)

At the same time, the President has managed to anger one of his stronger allies, Republican Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming. Enzi sent out a statement yesterday bashing Trump’s EPA for refusing to grant recent requests for waivers or smaller oil refineries under the RFS and other decisions such as this one, saying Trump’s policies “could hurt many energy workers in Wyoming and across the country.”

This is the tightrope that Donald Trump has been trying to walk for his entire first term in office. He wants to cozy up to the farmers and ethanol producers in the midwest by maintaining an artificial, government-created “market” for vast amounts of ethanol while still trying to support the oil-producing and refining states. But this isn’t the sort of game where you can play both sides against the middle. It’s really more of an either-or scenario. Every waiver Trump granted angered the Iowa contingent and the ethanol crowd, decreasing their trust in him, while all of the goodies he’s given away to the ethanol lobby have ticked off the oil and gas industry, along with the millions of workers they employ.

This weekend’s announcement was just more of the same. It may give Senator Ernst a brief boost in her own reelection bid, but it’s not going to much for Trump’s prospects in key oil production and refinement states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, and Louisiana.