At a recent campaign stop in Iowa Vice President Pence really missed an opportunity to hit a home run with the Trump Administration’s base in rural America. While he made points for scaled-back regulations like WOTUS and pledging assistance for areas hard hit by Derecho, he failed to make a big splash on ethanol. He did remind the audience of the Administration’s move on year-round sales of E 15 and while that was significant, it also made the lack of action on small refinery exemptions stand out even more. It was certainly the elephant in the room that can’t be ignored.
Those waivers that have been granted and those now being considered have more than offset the benefits of year-round E 15 sales, a point seemingly missed by the VP but not by the voters in rural America. The Trump Administration has tried to walk a narrow tightrope between the biofuels and oil industries making neither one happy. Now it seems the administration may be willing to try and delay a decision until after the November election. This could be a costly gamble. Perhaps the President is finally getting the message. The less than enthusiastic response to the Vice President’s appearance in Iowa and after hearing once again himself during his own Iowa visit, President Trump has said he will talk to EPA himself about the issue. While that is a hopeful sign it should be pointed out we have heard this before. The President once before got that message directly during a visit to Iowa and raised hopes that action would be taken. It was not. Now the election is near and the race seems close. The decision the Administration has put off for several years has come to a critical point. President Trump needs and is counting on the support of rural America to get re-elected. That support is at risk because of the ethanol issue.
An announcement of a change by EPA in handling small refinery exemptions would not guarantee victory for President Trump in November but lack of such an announcement certainly guarantees it will make that victory a lot more difficult.