Better Late Than Never

Reports of the Trump Administration’s decision to deny so called “gap year” requests for waivers to the Renewable Fuels Standard were welcome news to a struggling biofuels industry.  After months of hearing from concerned farmers and other biofuels advocates, the Administration seems to finally have gotten the message.  No doubt recent attacks by the Biden campaign and polling results in some key states helped get the message across that this is an important issue to many rural voters heading into November.  While this move is a big one it is actually just doing what the 10th circuit court ruled earlier this year.  As good as this news is for the biofuels industry it still doesn’t guarantee a change in how EPA will deal with this issue moving forward.  For now it seems to be a compromise that could buy the Administration some time going into the election.  The Administration has been trying to walk a fine line between the oil and biofuels industries on this issue and this seems to be continue that approach.  While not a perfect solution it is at least a step in the right direction.  Meanwhile we continue to wait and see if Congress can pass another COVID aid package and what it would contain for agriculture in general and biofuels in particular.  Secretary Perdue has indicated CFAP 2.0 will not include assistance for biofuels producers saying USDA would need statutory authority from Congress to provide payments to those companies.  This takes us back to the question of how future COVID aid for agriculture will be handled. If Congress appropriates ag aid money to be used at USDA’s discretion without specific instructions, will the biofuels industry be left out again?  For the most part the biofuels industry’s relationship with EPA has been adversarial while USDA has been viewed as friendly.  Money has a way of changing things and if USDA has the chance to provide aid to biofuels and doesn’t, it could find itself viewed in a much different light.  Still for now the SRE decision, while long overdue, is a bright spot in what has been a dark year for biofuels.