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Green groups back GOP on overhaul of Renewable Fuel Standard

Green groups back GOP on overhaul of Renewable Fuel Standard

President Trump and Senator Ted Cruz join forces to negotiate a deal between the oil and corn industries.

Environmental groups once strongly supported the federal government’s sweeping ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard over a decade ago, touting the fuel additive as a potential cure for the supposed climate crisis.

Ten years later, these same groups are backing proposed Republican reforms to these regulations.

The intense opposition to the RFS from environmental and conservation groups comes as the White House and congressional leaders work to craft the most serious reforms the program has seen since it was established more than 10 years ago. As Republicans and oil-industry groups bemoan the RFS as a job killer in the oil refining sector, environmentalists say their once-high hopes that ethanol could reduce carbon emissions, preserve land and help fight climate change have been proven wrong.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” said Collin O’Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, a group that was once a vocal supporter of the RFS but now has become one of its chief opponents. “There’s a reason why [the RFS] was bipartisan, but the problem is that the law hasn’t been followed … We’ve distorted both our energy policy and our natural resources. That absolutely could’ve been avoided.”

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been working hard for these reforms, which are pitting the oil industry against the corn industry.

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican opponent of both ethanol subsidies and the Renewable Fuel Standard from oil-rich state of Texas, held up confirmation of a U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for months until he secured a White House meeting on the issue.

Last week, Cruz and three other senators from oil and corn states met with White House officials to attempt to strike a deal on some administrative reforms. Another meeting was held with the oil and biofuels industries, including representatives from two ethanol and biodiesel facilities that have received at least $24 million in taxpayer subsidies from 2009-16 through the Department of Agriculture’s Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels.

Additionally, President Donald Trump tried to help negotiate a deal between the two industries during the White House meeting.

Trump told the gathering of lawmakers and corporate executives that he supports a proposal from the refining industry to cap the price of biofuels blending credits that refiners must acquire to comply with the RFS.

Prices for the blending credits – which refiners must either earn or purchase – have surged in recent years, upsetting companies that in some cases are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on them.

The source, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak publicly on the discussion, said Trump also expressed support for expanding sales of high-ethanol gasoline – a tweak long-sought by ethanol producers.

The environmentalists’ complaints related to the RFS standard are the rules rely too heavily on corn and not enough on other renewable fuel options. EPA head Scott Pruitt angered these groups, once again, by proposing a more conservative approach to setting annual biofuel blending volume requirements instead of enforcing technologically questionable green mandates.

The proposal is “consistent with market realities focused on actual production and consumer demand while being cognizant of the challenges that exist in bringing advanced biofuels into the marketplace,” Pruitt said in a statement.

The agency would keep the 2018 target for conventional ethanol at 15 billion gallons, unchanged from 2017, and set the requirement for advanced biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol, at 4.24 billion gallons.

These latest volumes confirmed an earlier Reuters report for volumes well below the 26 billion gallons of renewable fuels outlined by Congress in 2007.

However, no matter what reforms occur, it is doubtful that the environmental activists will appreciate Trump’s negotiating style.


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But history and reality tell a different story.

Duh Donald, sucking BIG CORN in Iowa for a few votes, came out for…not only support for the anti-science, anti-market…ethanol boondogle, but EXPANSION of it. Because, he actually said, it would “make American great”.

Look it up.

    Connivin Caniff in reply to Ragspierre. | March 17, 2018 at 10:30 am

    From a Trump supporter, you are unfortunately correct.

    casualobserver in reply to Ragspierre. | March 17, 2018 at 10:39 am

    One would think some of the Trump haters would be numb and would be getting callused fingertips by now from all of the repeated alarm and typing about Trump’s moderating his positions. It’s not like he has turned 180 degrees on much of his rhetoric used to get votes. And almost every report explicitly uses terms like “negotiate” even though usually written by those who wish him gone. And almost always there is a reference to bringing “two sides” together in negotiations.

    And yet the outrage continues, sometimes frenetic.

      Ragspierre in reply to casualobserver. | March 17, 2018 at 10:54 am

      Look up the quotes. You won’t find “negotiate”. You’ll find what I faithfully depicted.

      “…it will make America great again.”

      Which is transparent bullshit.

        casualobserver in reply to Ragspierre. | March 17, 2018 at 11:08 am

        I make no claim that his bombastic campaign rhetoric and his current negotiating position are exactly the same. Not sure how that is even inferred into what I wrote.

        My only point is that steady and almost hyperbolic alarm at Trump’s change from any original position is getting trite, not to mention tiring. And maybe it’s hypocritical, too. After all, even the most ardent ideologues on the left and the right change position once they get enriched…..oops, I mean once they get into office and have to make deals at times.

        There’s a lot to dislike about Trump, especially his personality. But continuing to be be startled that he actually tries to pull two sides together and negotiate might one day fit the definition of insanity. I can’t tell for sure, but certainly the Trump acolytes want me to believe his moderating on positions is NOT driven by the same financial and political gain-making that most politicians suffer. Of course, those who cannot rest until he is dethroned will find some way to connect some Trump business with every decision he makes. Or something like that….

    Barry in reply to Ragspierre. | March 17, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    “President Trump and Senator Ted Cruz join forces…”

    Now there’s a real ragspee trigger.

    Rags and I actually agree on this one. The biggest reason I supported Cruz in the primaries and now is that he went to Iowa and told them how bad an idea the whole ethanol boondoggle has been. It has directly contributed to deaths by starvation and increased hunger generally.

      Paul in reply to SDN. | March 18, 2018 at 4:07 pm

      This will end up being (another) case study for how hard it is to kill a useless, stupid, ineffective and ill-advised government program. Once the “free money” starts flowing and somebody gets attached to that teat, they will scream blood-murder if the milk stops flowing.

UnCivilServant | March 17, 2018 at 10:40 am

Ditch the mandates, let the market decide if it wants to debase fueld with ethanol (here’s a hint – a lot of farmland will go back to growing food)

    casualobserver in reply to UnCivilServant. | March 17, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Wouldn’t it be great if gasoline brands were able to take market positions and test the results? Just as Dick’s has chosen to be public about a gun selling decision and letting the market decide whether to abide or punish them, so should Shell and Exxon, or whatever, be able to promote choice or lack of choice in products, etc. There might even be a return to some kind of brand loyalty. As it is, the products are so similar that the only brand distinction any more is whether you can get a credit card to give you a minor discount on your purchase. Pretty sad.

Ethanol, the magic bean of fuel. Unfortunately your mileage drops because it take more ethanol than gas to get the same mileage. Cars had to get smaller and lighter to meet the CAFE standards and thus less safe. Repair work skyrocketed. More safety innovations added weight and complexity.
Food prices increased from lack of corn. Exports went down.
Environmentalists are demanding zero emission cars fueled by fossil fueled and gas fired plants that spew out the CO2 they want to get rid of, but want to ban nuclear plants.
Are these people not really thinking these things through? (rhetorical question)

    Joe-dallas in reply to harleycowboy. | March 17, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Ethanol – Cleaner burning fuel – NOT

    Ethanol may burn cleaner per gallon, but as Harley points out, lower gas mileage results in burning dirtier per mile.

It amazes me how much clout these small ethanol-producing states have maintained on this issue, for such a prolonged period of time, as pretty much everyone else — on both sides of the political aisle — is opposed to the ethanol mandates, from a diverse range of industries and interests.

The ethanol mandates are demonstrably bad for the environment, destructive to automobile engines, bad for consumers and car owners, antithetical to free-market principles and simply represent the quintessence of bad public policy. Their elimination or reduction is long overdue.

Boondoggle, thy name is Renewable Fuel Standard. Dump the mandate, the biofuel blending credits, and the subsidies. If a profit can be made by adding ethanol to gasoline, fine. Otherwise, at least allow companies and consumers a choice. I know that my old pickup truck runs a lot better and gets better mileage on non-ethanol gasoline.

Those looking back in history at this time will scratch their heads, wondering why these people were burning food to propel a vehicle.

    Close The Fed in reply to Guein. | March 17, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    Yeah, and they practically had riots in Mexico when it started from the increase in corn prices.

A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. Winston Churchill. Seems the never Trumpers are the epitome of this.

If your ideas don’t evolve over time, as you gain new insight, new information, or evaluate your previous ideas, you are certain not to grow in wisdom or intelligence. What you shouldn’t change readily are your principles.

This issue with ethanol is it needs to have the politics taken out as much as possible, and looked at for if it is effective and doing as desired. It does harm engines, some, such as lawn mowers, suffer more from it’s addition to the gasoline, percentages also are important to pay attention to, as many engines state the limit of how much ethanol should be. Left unstated with that is the preference is no additive ethanol.

I think the powers that push this are not only the states that produce the ethanol, but also some environmental groups who still believe that it helps their cause.

We tend to make decisions and laws far too readily, and yet hesitate to rescind laws and mandates that are not working as they were intended. Obamacare is a prime example of such thinking. I think the ethanol issue is another. If this practice is to continue, it certainly needs reformed and refined. I hope that Trump is well advised with this, but as with most things, their are those coming down on both sides of this, and it remains to be seen which voices will hold the sway.

If an improvement to this dumb program can be made, I’m all for it. I am currently driving four miles out of my way to buy 90 octane non-ethanol gas for my car. If the RFS were eliminated, I feel sure corn growers could find buyers using the corn for human and livestock feed.

    Barry in reply to tarheelkate. | March 17, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    ” I am currently driving four miles out of my way to buy 90 octane non-ethanol gas for my car.”

    What are you driving? Any late model* car/truck does just fine on ethanol.

    1990’s on

      The Friendly Grizzly in reply to Barry. | March 17, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      You are correct. But, I have run both of my vehicles on real gasoline, and the performance difference can be felt, and fuel mileage does go up a bit. The two vehicles in question are a 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe with the 6.2 litre engine and 10-speed, and the other is a 2008 Pontiac “tin-top” with a 3.5 litre V6.

        This is my experience, too, TFG. I could tell that I was burning more gas and getting fewer gas miles as the mandate kicked in, but it wasn’t until I moved back home (to Florida) that I really saw the difference when I switched to real gasoline. It is noticeable.

        Generally speaking (not to TFG, in particular), I hate government mandates, and yes, that includes those pushed by the GOP. How dare the federal government mandate I purchase substandard fuel that harms my car and decreases my gas mileage? How dare they mandate I purchase this corn product for my car? That’s not the free market, that’s not individual liberty, that’s making me buy something I don’t want that ends up costing me money in every way (higher taxes to pay corn growers to grow fuel and having to service my engine and even replace my car more often).

        I am not an RFS fan. Not at all. If I think it’s wrong for the government to force me to buy health insurance, I think it’s wrong for the government to force me to buy anything . . . up to, including, but not limited to corn for my gas tank.

          The Friendly Grizzly in reply to Fuzzy Slippers. | March 17, 2018 at 4:16 pm

          In my view, the mandate exists for the same reason the free school lunch program exists, and the WIC program. The old farm subsidies went away, and some thought that boondoggle had been put to rest.

          It wasn’t. I was just moved over to fuel adulteration mandates, and food gieaways.

        Since I do some racing, I can tell you that on the dyno 10% ethanol gas produces a bit more power than the normal Avgas I use (aviation gas because it’s fresh and high quality). The same thing is true for others engines, well known. As is true for pump gas without ethanol.

        I am not for government mandated ethanol however.

        Relative BTU levels in the different fuels.
        Energy Dept

      The Packetman in reply to Barry. | March 17, 2018 at 4:26 pm

      “Any late model* car/truck does just fine on ethanol.”

      Barry, the choice is your car running ‘just fine’ on ethanol, vs running better on real gas.

      As others are noting, my car runs better and more efficiently running 100% gas, but it’s not sold everywhere. And when my daughter changes schools, my normal stop for fuel won’t be on the way and I’ll have to start making an effort to get real gas.

      But the most insidious part of the RFS is that the corn industry helped get it passed, and then receives subsidies for a product that gas companies are required to purchase … it’s the ultimate rent-seek.

      Except for the radical eco-left, no one would *choose* to buy ethanol blended gas. As that’s the case, let them start paying the premium for a product that is subject to actual free-market forces.

        Great comment! Also, as Leslie points out, even the ecofascists who first supported the RFS are now opposed to it. The precious little darlings apparently believed that burning corn in our gas tanks would save the planet from its naturally-occurring cycles.

        I do think it noteworthy that even these loons now get that there are fundamental flaws with destroying thousands of single-family farms to make way for the corn acreage needed, not to feed Americans, but to grow corn to run in and degrade our cars. Who wins? Small farmers kicked off their lands or paid to grow only corn for the fuel market, with no room to have so much as a family-sized vegetable garden? Who the hell wins? Do we win when large chunks of tax dollars, including those we’ve yet to even earn so heavily are we indebted to China for corn crap, flood into the off-shore accounts of bazillionaires who are happy to see us pay for their luxury?

        I’m all for capitalism and the free market. All I need is someone to explain to me how the RFS and its many “unexpected consequences” and government “fixes” resemble either.

        “Barry, the choice is your car running ‘just fine’ on ethanol, vs running better on real gas.”

        BS. Back it up. Cars built to run on ethanol blended gas run just as well on it as no ethanol gas. Dyno results prove there is a bit more power in ethanol gasoline.

        “Feelings” are proof of nothing.

        Which does not mean I’m for government mandated gasoline.

        But you are paying quite a bit more for “pure” gas, and wasting your money unless you have an older vehicle not equipped with the right rubber components for ethanol.

        Your call. Just pointing out the truth.

    The Packetman in reply to tarheelkate. | March 17, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    “If an improvement to this dumb program can be made”

    The best thing for a dumb program is to kill it …

While ethanol blended gas is bad for classic cars, marine engines and small engines in lawnmowers and the like, I don’t know if that’s true for what is becoming the standard base engine in modern cars – a turbo charged 2 liter making 200-250HP and returning great mileage. Take away the increase in octane from ethanol, you get a greater possibility of engine knock which the engine computer compensates for by reducing power. Bump the octane rating back up in pure gas and the price goes up too.
The solution is choice – I do have one car I’d like to run with pure 93-95 octane gas, but the rest are appliances for transportation. Get rid of the mandates.

The Renewable Fuel Standard is US law. EPA has some discretion in enforcement but major changes will require legislation. Trump is trying to bring the bring the sides together with a recognition of political reality and an effort at compromise.

The “expansion” Trump is said to support is to allow, not require, the sale of E15 during the summer months. This is currently prohibited by the EPA because of the higher evaporative characteristics of E15 compared to E10 or real gasoline. The environmentalists generally oppose the change.

    E15 is insane. Auto manufacturers void warranties at E-15 because cars are not designed to run on corn. Go figure.

    I don’t care if George Soros himself opposes the RFS while breathing brimstone and twitching his pointy demon tail. Right is right. And this is not even in the same hemisphere as right. Never was, never will be. This is a GOP boondoggle that forces us (in most states, thank the good Lord, Florida now allows the sale of non-ethanol fuel) to buy a substandard product that damages our cars, reduces our gas mileage, and makes zero sense on any level except being a boon to big corn . . . on our taxpayer dollars.

Destroys lawn mowers and boats. Prematurely ages engines. Causes damage to fuel ejectors. And is 15% less efficient than gasoline.
There is an up side?

    Barry in reply to puhiawa. | March 17, 2018 at 2:59 pm

    “Prematurely ages engines.”

    Odd, I have two vehicles with many miles undamaged. One with 350K and the other just nearing 280K. They were designed to run the stuff and do just fine. Many older machines suffer because their rubber parts are damaged by the ethanol.

    I’d like to see it all a market driven force however. If ethanol blends could stand on their own, then fine. If not they can become a dodo.

OleDirtyBarrister | March 17, 2018 at 3:20 pm

A small historical point is that Cruz won Iowa and went on to lose the nomination to Donnie Orange. Cruz won Iowa while opposing the ethanol subsidy.

Ersatz markets for products like zero down payment, reverse amortization sub-prime mortgages and ethanol are all houses of cards. They exist only because of artificial conditions and if one is knocked down the whole thing tumbles like a house of cards.

The energy density and power density of American ethanol is terrible. It comes down to a simple point regarding waste: it takes more money energy to produce a gall on if than it is worth.

The sugar cane ethanol made in Brazil is a better product for them than corn ethanol is for us. But the effect on the rainforest and cost that results from clearing land for more cane is hidden and not imputed into the cost of the ethanol.

Ethanol fuel additives have always been nothing more than a boondoggle to support big agriculture by creating a mandated market for corn. Not only do they reduce engine performance, but the energy necessary to create the ethanol is greater than that necessary to create refined gasoline. On top of that, it required a complete re-engineering of engine components to keep the ethanol from eating up rubber components. Then we have the hydroscopic problems attendant with ethanol and ethanol-gasoline blends.

Nothing good comes from mixing gasoline and ethanol or using ethanol alone as a motor fuel.

    Barry in reply to Mac45. | March 18, 2018 at 2:09 am

    “Not only do they reduce engine performance…”

    Not true. While ethanol has less BTU’s per volume than gasoline, it burns faster and cleaner and increases power. Proven fact by anyone with a dynamotor. Engine performance is increased.

      OleDirtyBarrister in reply to Barry. | March 18, 2018 at 2:41 pm

      I’d like to see some peer reviewed articles proving what you said about ethanol.

      Can you cite any proper studies?

        I don’t know where you can find peer reviewed articles, sorry.

        The addition of alcohol allows higher compression by raising octane values and higher compression produces more power. Even with the same compression, same engine, a bit more power gets produce by the faster burn.

        It does get lower mileage of course. If the price of “pure” gasoline was the same it would be advantageous to purchase it. In most places the cost of the pure stuff more than offsets the mileage increase, which is really my point. You’re going to lose money in most cases buying the pure stuff. I buy it for my boat and pay almost a dollar a gallon more, but the boat is an older one and gas sits in the 120 gallon tank for long periods. Alcohol is not good for sitting long periods. It sucks in moisture…

        I have seen other engine builders remarks from dyno runs, but not sure I can find those on the internet. If I can I’ll link them here. It ups my HP by about 1.5% on the dyno. But I don’t use it, too much variation in both the alcohol content, quality, and age. I use aviation fuel only in the racing engine (100LL), about $5.00 a gallon.