is part of the Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

  • American Agriculturist
  • Beef Producer
  • Corn and Soybean Digest
  • Dakota Farmer
  • Delta Farm Press
  • Farm Futures
  • Farm Industry news
  • Indiana Prairie Farmer
  • Kansas Farmer
  • Michigan Farmer
  • Missouri Ruralist
  • Nebraska Farmer
  • Ohio Farmer
  • Prairie Farmer
  • Southeast Farm Press
  • Southwest Farm Press
  • The Farmer
  • Wallaces Farmer
  • Western Farm Press
  • Western Farmer Stockman
  • Wisconsin Agriculturist
Ethanol plant beyond field of green photosbyjim/ThinkstockPhotos

Trump delays ethanol policy announcement

Trump administration has failed to find a balance between Midwest farmers and Pennsylvania refiners.

by Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Mario Parker and Jennifer Jacobs

A tentative deal to revamp U.S. biofuel policy appeared to collapse Tuesday when the White House indefinitely delayed an expected announcement of the planned changes, according to three people familiar with the move. 

The postponement of a directive outlining the deal may mark the end of the latest effort to overhaul the American renewable fuel mandate with an eye on lowering costs for refiners forced to blend biofuels into gasoline, said the people, who asked not to be named to discuss internal deliberations.

Despite months of negotiations, the Trump administration has struggled to find a balance on a contentious issue that divides two of the president’s key constituencies: Midwest farmers and refiners in Pennsylvania. On the campaign trail in 2016, Donald Trump promised to support ethanol, a pledge embraced by farmers who grow the corn used to produce it. 

Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa who threatened to call for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation over the dispute, cheered the proposal’s apparent failure with a post on Twitter. "Pres Trump helped farmers by rejecting bad ethanol deal," Grassley said. "I appreciate. GREAT NEWS." 

The planned directive -- in the works for weeks -- was meant to specifically outline planned changes that have been contested since the tentative deal was struck at the White House last month.

Even before Trump was presented with the draft document, farm state senators were attacking the proposal. Grassley told reporters Tuesday he thought Pruitt had “betrayed the president” with his agency’s handling of the biofuel mandate.

Pruitt Becomes a Target 

Senator Joni Ernst, also an Iowa Republican, accused Pruitt of "breaking our president’s promise to farmers" in remarks to the S&P Global Platts Energy Podium in Washington on Tuesday. Ernst later wrote on Twitter that Trump "just assured me he won’t sign a deal that’s bad for farmers."

Related: Voters disappointed by “broken promises” on RFS

The plan’s apparent demise was celebrated by biofuel producers. Bob Dinneen, president of Renewable Fuels Association, said the group was "happy the president continues to recognize the importance of our industry to America’s farmers and rural economies across the nation."

Emily Skor, chief executive officer of Growth Energy, a biofuel trade group, said it looks forward to “refocusing this conversation” toward farm income and filling-station prices.

Related: Group urges administration to support RFS

This may not be the end of the debate. Lawmakers are developing legislation to overhaul the Renewable Fuel Standard. The politics of the issue can shift along with gasoline prices. And some refiners that have been seeking lower compliance costs for years are unlikely to stop pushing for changes, leveraging the concerns of organized labor to help make their case. 

"The president has heard the voices of hard-working union refinery workers that helped elect him," said Frank Maisano, a founding partner of Bracewell LLP’s Policy Resolution Group, who works with refiners. "We fully expect the president will deliver a common sense, win-win plan that provides new markets and opportunities for ethanol advocates and much-needed relief for refinery workers." 

Refiners’ concerns generally center around the cost of compliance credits known as renewable identification numbers, or RINs, which they use to prove they have satisfied annual biofuel quotas. Even without formal changes, news reports about potential alterations to the mandate have caused the value of RINs tracking ethanol blending to plummet to a five-year low.

Trump administration officials previously agreed to lift summertime restrictions so a higher ethanol blend of gasoline known as E15 could be sold year round. 

To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington at; Mario Parker in Chicago at; Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at

Simon Casey

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P

TAGS: EPA Energy
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.