Rural America’s Voice

Rural America has expressed a tangible desire to focus on American jobs, infrastructure and energy independence. This Drive column appears in the January 2017 print edition of Ethanol Producer Magazine.
By Emily Skor | December 27, 2016

This month as we ring in the new year, we also inaugurate a new president and induct a new Congress. As the country continues to digest the results of our November elections, one thing is crystal clear—rural America matters. Rural America has a resounding voice. Rural America has expressed a tangible desire to focus on American jobs, American infrastructure and American energy independence.

Of course, this industry knows that the agricultural community is and has always been the backbone of the United States. However, the recent election results have put ethanol-producing states firmly at the forefront of the political discourse. While political analysts and policy pundits continue to pontificate on the results of this historic election, we’ll be busy working to make sure that the elected officials make good on their promises to support industries and opportunities that support rural America.

Ethanol has long been tied to the success of the agriculture industry and, with this newfound focus on rural communities, it is essential that we work with the new administration to support policies that encourage greater use of ethanol. President-elect Trump and Vice-President-elect Pence publicly stated their support for ethanol and the renewable fuel standard (RFS) and did so repeatedly throughout the campaign. Going forward, it will be critical to work with the incoming administration—the cabinet, political appointees and advisors—to make sure they understand the details of how the RFS succeeds and why it should remain in place.

Maintaining a strong RFS is our No. 1 priority. The RFS is our country’s most successful energy policy and it continues to foster competition and consumer choice. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. EPA got the RFS back on track by setting the 2017 renewable volume obligations (RVOs) for conventional biofuels under the RFS to the statutory level of 15 billion gallons. We look forward to working with the new administration to maintain a strong RFS so that ethanol can continue to add octane to the fuel supply while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, displacing harmful chemicals in gasoline and saving consumers money at the pump.

We must also continue to work toward expanding the availability of higher ethanol blends around the country. Securing a 1-pound Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver for E15 will be essential in increasing the retail availability of E15. The fuel is already available in more than half of the states in the U.S., and working with Trump’s administration to resolve the RVP issue will encourage even more retailers to carry higher blends.

Finally, we will work with the Trump administration to end the debate over the point of obligation under the RFS. The RFS has been law for more than a decade, giving ample time to adjust and comply. As outlined by Congress, refiners are the obligated parties required to blend the volumes of renewable fuels. In just the past two years, we have seen significant expansion of higher blends, like E15, being offered by major retailers such as Sheetz, Thorntons, Racetrac, Minnoco, Kum & Go, Murphy USA and Protec Fuel. This is good news because increasing the availability of clean biofuels as part of our nation’s transportation fuel supply is exactly what the RFS was intended to do. Changing the point of obligation now would remove the incentive for retailers to offer higher-octane, cleaner-burning blends like E15. It also would reward those refiners who have made every effort to avoid blending more biofuels. The EPA’s recent recommendation proposing to deny the petition to change the point of obligation is the correct one. President-elect Trump made firm commitments to the RFS and to the future of biofuels, and as an industry we need to work with his team to ensure that the point of obligation remains unchanged so that America benefits from the continued expansion of E15 and higher ethanol blends.

The future of the ethanol industry is bright. With the certainty provided by strong RVOs, and the expanding availability of higher blends like E15, we are in an excellent position to work with the new administration to continue delivering high-performance 21st century fuel for 21st century vehicles for the next year and beyond.

Author: Emily Skor
CEO, Growth Energy