A Boon for Farmers: Trump to Announce Lifting of Ethanol Restrictions
NEW YORK — October 9, 2018
The Trump administration is moving to allow higher concentrations of ethanol in gasoline during the summer months—to be sure a boon for farmers who have pushed for greater sales of the corn-based fuel.
President Donald Trump is expected to announce that he is lifting a federal ban before leaving for a trip to Iowa. He has previously pledged to allow the sale of gasoline with 15% ethanol during the summer months, which the EPA currently prohibits because of concerns over air pollution. The ethanol industry has long pushed for a lift on the ban.
The long-expected announcement is something of a reward to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman led a contentious but successful fight to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The veteran Republican lawmaker is the Senate's leading ethanol proponent and sharply criticized the Trump administration's proposed rollback in ethanol volumes earlier this year.
At that time, Grassley threatened to call for the resignation of the Environmental Protection Agency's chief, Scott Pruitt, if Pruitt did not work to fulfill the federal ethanol mandate. Pruitt later stepped down amid a host of ethics investigations. He had planned to allow E15 sales year-round as part of a deal between oil and corn interests, but that deal fell apart. The EPA currently bans the high-ethanol blend called E15 during the summer because of concerns that it contributes to smog on hot days, a claim ethanol industry advocates say is unfounded.
The change would allow year-round sales of gasoline blends with up to 15% ethanol. Gasoline typically contains 10% ethanol.
The senior administration official said the proposed rule intends to allow E15 sales next summer. Current regulations prevent retailers in much of the country from offering E15 from June 1 to Sept. 15.
Lifting the summer ban is expected to be coupled with new restrictions on trading biofuel credits that underpin the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, commonly known as the ethanol mandate. The law sets out how much corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels refiners must blend into gasoline each year.
The oil industry opposes year-round sales of E15, warning that high-ethanol gasoline can damage car engines and fuel systems. Some car makers have warned against high-ethanol blends, although EPA has approved use of E15 in all light-duty vehicles built since 2001.