President Donald Trump and the leaders of Mexico and Canada are touting a new trade agreement they’re calling USMCA that would benefit workers across North America.
After months of false starts, President Donald Trump will tell Iowans on Tuesday during a campaign rally in Council Bluffs that he’s opening the door to year-round access to gasoline with higher ethanol blends.
A senior White House official said Monday that Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency to begin rule-making that allows for year-round use of gasoline with 15 percent ethanol or E15.
The announcement sets off a review that could make E15 available to consumers as soon as next summer.
In addition, the president will seek reforms to biofuels credit trading that the White House says will provide greater transparency and help reduce volatility in the market.
E15 is banned during the summer months, based on concerns it contributes to smog, a claim ethanol advocates say is unfounded. Almost all gasoline contains 10 percent ethanol.
The move should help Iowa farmers and U.S. consumers at a time when years of record harvests — and Trump trade wars with Canada, Mexico and China — have helped depress corn and soybean prices.
U.S. farm income this year is expected to be 50 percent below a 2013 high.
“It’s wonderful for the American farmer. It’s great for biofuels producers. And it’s great for the American consumer, so we’re thrilled,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, a Washington, D.C., ethanol advocacy group.
Skor said increased adoption of higher ethanol blends could boost corn use by 2 billion bushels.
That’s big news in Iowa, the nation’s largest corn grower and ethanol and biodiesel producer.
About half of Iowa’s corn crop is used to make ethanol and a high-protein byproduct called distillers grain that’s fed to livestock.
“This action will be good for agriculture industry as well as the economy overall,” the official said.
The announcement could shore up GOP support in some competitive statewide races, including Republican incumbent Kim Reynolds’ run against Democrat challenger Fred Hubbell.
Farmers have gained some certainty with Trump’s new trade deals with Canada and Mexico announced earlier this month, which would replace the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.
The U.S. is still involved in an ongoing trade dispute with China, the largest buyer of American soybeans and second-largest purchaser of pork, based on volume.
Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, said Trump deserved credit for getting year-round E15 when other administrations did not.
“This is something we’ve worked on for seven years — non-stop,” Shaw said, adding that he sees few problems with the reforms proposed to trading biofuels credits, called renewable identification numbers or RINS.
“This is the first president that’s taken action,” Shaw said. “It was a promise made and a promise kept.”
The president wants more frequent compliance reporting, public disclosure of biofuels credit holdings, and limits on who can buy the credits and how long they can be held.
The president seeks the changes to provide oil refiners “price stability,” the senior White House official said.
“This action is specifically directed at increasing the supply of biofuels and providing consumer choice and is in line with the president’s free market approach to the energy market,” he said.
The White House official said the administration is confident year-round E15 access can withstand expected legal challenges.
He said Trump has been meeting with stakeholders and members of Congress to find an answer.
While ethanol has had bipartisan congressional support, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have fought efforts by the oil industry to tie year-round E15 access to what’s seen as anti-ethanol restrictions.
Shaw said reducing consumer confusion around E15 availability will lead to more large gasoline retailers offering higher ethanol blends — and to consumers using them.
E15 is safe to use in 2001 vehicles and newer. That’s about 90 percent of cars on the road. Shaw believes that E15 could become as popular as E10.
“The important thing for us is to increase demand,” he said.
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