Over the past year and a half, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt has issued Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) waivers equivalent to more than 1.6 billion gallons of ethanol (according to the Renewable Fuels Association and their analysis of EPA data) , a move Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told the Senate Ag Committee is “direct demand destruction.”
According to Pro Farmer policy analyst Jim Wiesemeyer, Secretary Perdue fielded Congressional questions on the RFS during his hearing before the Senate Ag Committee on Tuesday.
“On the RFS, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) pressed Perdue on the EPA's recent move to provide waivers to some smaller refiners for obligations under the law,” he said. “Perdue said as of his last check, USDA was aware that over one billion gallons of biofuel waivers had been granted.”
Wiesemeyer said Ernst followed up by asking Perdue how he plans to “ensure the EPA is not deliberately circumventing the RFS," to which he said he didn’t have “any kind of hammer” to force Pruitt’s hand on the issue. Perdue said he intends to use “the power of persuasion” to help them understand how the waivers have undermined the renewable volume obligations issued last fall.
"Our farmers and biofuel producers are very concerned," Perdue said yesterday.
Iowa farmer Tim Richter told AgriTalk host Chip Flory the volume of waivers that have been granted so far are a “huge deal” during Wednesday’s farmer forum.
“The RFS holds feet to the fire for big oil to blend a renewable product,” he said. “Without that we know we’re small fish in a big ocean when it comes to fuel.”
According to Richter, there are hardship waivers included in the RFS. He served as president of the National Corn Growers Association in 2008 when the RFS was first implemented. Still, the quantity of waivers being granted by Administrator Pruitt concerns him.
“We really are at risk with all the waivers being granted,” he said.
During his hearing on Tuesday, Perdue also mentioned president Trump is in support of year-round sale of E15 gasoline blends.
“The change remains on hold as the EPA studies the issue but the decision is ultimately the president’s,” Wiesmeyer said.