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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 6, 2018, a coalition of biofuel producers wrote to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) urging them to reach out to President Trump to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. EPA, under the direction of Administrator Scott Pruitt, recently provided a large oil refining company, Andeavor, with a hardship waiver. These waivers are typically given to small refineries producing less than 75,000 barrels per day that would suffer a “disproportionate economic hardship” from the costs of RFS compliance. Since Andeavor’s exemption was reported, Renewable Identification Number (RIN) prices have fallen significantly, questions have arisen regarding the legality of such an exemption for a large company, and doubt has been cast onto the future stability of the RFS program.

The producers’ letter states:

Based on the data that has been made public about 2016 exemptions, IRFA estimates that the 25 exemptions for 2017 likely equate to over one billion gallons of demand destruction taken directly from the 15-billion-gallon RFS level for last year.
This represents an unprecedented attack on the RFS and the President’s commitment to defending the 15-billion-gallon level. The small refinery exemption provision of the RFS was clearly intended for small refiners who could prove disproportionate economic harm. Such waivers were, as one would expect, few and far between during the Bush and Obama Administrations. We are now seeing that Pruitt has weaponized the small refinery exemption provision in an effort to effectively render the RFS useless.

In addition to concern over Andeavor’s hardship waiver, the biofuel producers also request that the senators push the President to refuse any waiver or price cap on RINs and order Administrator Pruitt to approve year-round E15 sales, increasing the amount of RFS credits generated and driving price of RINs down.


On March 16, 2017, 23 Senators, including Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), sent President Trump a bipartisan letter requesting that he maintain the point of obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  In the letter, the Senators remind Trump that the RFS program was adopted to provide stability for renewable fuel producers and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that, to meet this goal, the point of obligation should be placed on refiners and importers.  Shifting the point of obligation downstream would create little incentive for refiners to produce the necessary blendstocks, which would make downstream entities unable to comply.  The letter outlines the detrimental effects that changing the point of obligation would have on refiners, blenders, marketers and retailers, and states that the proposed changes are broadly opposed by the majority of the transportation fuel market.  The Senators acknowledge Trump’s commitment to the RFS program and state that they look forward to working with Trump to ensure the RFS program continues to aid in job creation and economic growth across the country.


On December 15, 2016,  Fuels America sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump on behalf of the nation's renewable fuels sector encouraging Trump’s continued commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program.  Fuels America stated that the RFS Program has promoted the growth of the American biofuels industry and has helped to correct the imbalance that exists in the global oil market by ensuring competition among fuel producers, in addition to stimulating economic growth in rural communities.  The letter urged Trump to remain an advocate for the RFS Program and offered the full support of the coalition regarding efforts to grow the nation’s renewable fuels industry.  Archer Daniels Midland, Monsanto, DuPont, the American Coalition for Ethanol, and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization were among the ethanol and agricultural industry stakeholders to sign the letter.


On September 13, 2016, governors of seven ethanol producing states wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy requesting the removal of the Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) limit on E15. RVP measures gasoline volatility, and E10 receives a one pound-force per square inch (psi) RVP waiver between June 1 and September 15 that is not extended to E15. The letter states "EPA's disparate handling of E10 and E15 with regard to fuel volatility regulation is stifling the widespread adoption of E15 and mid-level ethanol blends." The governors continue to argue that "This inequitable RVP treatment of E10 and E15 has no scientific basis since E15 and higher blends are lower in volatility than E10 when blended with the same base gasoline. We strongly urge you to take immediate action to establish a volatility regime that allows a uniform gasoline blendstock to be suitable for blending both E10 and E15 (and higher blends) year round." The American Coalition for Ethanol and the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association have both spoken out in support of the letter, stating the RVP limit is one of many barriers to ethanol being competitive in the fuel market.


On August 3, 2016, 24 farmer and public interest organizations wrote to the Obama Administration expressing their disappointment with the direction that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has taken with the proposed modernization of the Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology (Coordinated Framework). The letter argues that an overly permissive regulatory framework for genetically engineered (GE) products has resulted in negative consequences, and that GE products need broader and more cautious regulatory oversight. The letter also states that public engagement with the project has not been proactively pursued by the Coordinated Framework's Working Group, and demands "more transparency, more public meetings and more public input."


On April 5, 2016, the biofuel trade associations Advanced Biofuels Business Council, Algae Biomass Organization, Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, and Renewable Fuels Association sent a letter to House and Senate Leaders asking for a multiyear extension of advanced biofuel tax credits. The six organizations are specifically asking that the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit, and the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property through the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015 are extended before they expire at the end of 2016. Other energy production tax credits have been extended, and the biofuel trade associations argue that extending certain energy tax provisions and not others creates investment uncertainty across the energy sector, and puts biofuel producers at a disadvantage.