We’re Fine Under Trump

Ethanol Producer Magazine's editor in chief reflects on the mood as the new administration announces nominees for top posts and prepares for the inauguration. This editors note appears in the January 2017 print edition.
By Tom Bryan | December 29, 2016

America’s clean and renewable energy sector is uneasy with President-elect Donald Trump, but that anxiety doesn’t permeate through ethanol land. Trump carried eight of America’s top ethanol states—the solid red parts of the map—and a significant percentage of ethanol plant employees, executives and board members are Republican, conservative, or both. We don’t need polls to tell us that.

Trump won Iowa, ethanol’s epicenter, and he named Gov. Terry Branstad to be ambassador to China. That’s great. Branstad is a longtime ethanol supporter and a statesman the Chinese trust. The governor’s familiarity with biofuels and ag exports will benefit our industry, which depends on China to buy half of the distillers grains we export. Furthermore, there’s reason to believe that Trump’s ambition to retool trade deals, done right, could benefit ethanol and DDGS sales abroad.    

At press time, Trump had still not identified his cabinet picks for secretaries of agriculture and energy, but he had named Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, to lead the EPA. Pruitt was clearly not on our list of candidates to run the agency that oversees the renewable fuel standard (RFS). He’s an oil-friendly “climate skeptic” who sued Obama’s EPA regularly in the name of curbing government overreach. If and when Pruitt takes his post (Democrats may try to block him), the troubled Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule will be among his first targets. Other EPA-run programs could be subject to similar beat downs under a Trump/Pruitt EPA, but not the RFS. While Pruitt has been critical of ethanol’s advancement—like when he filed an unheeded RFS complaint with the U.S. Supreme Court a few years ago—he’s unlikely to pick a fight with us now. Trump’s mission to create and preserve jobs, and revive American manufacturing, reads like a virtual ethanol industry narrative. Domestic biofuels production is consistent with Trump’s vision. Plus, the president-elect’s gratitude to Iowan voters is real, and his campaign pledge to “protect corn ethanol” seems honest. Let’s trust it.
At the start of the Trump presidency, the U.S. ethanol industry has never been stronger. We are producing more than 1 million barrels of ethanol a day, and we’re about to experience the highest sustained period of volumetric output in biofuels history. If that isn’t enough, the American biofuels industry is in closer agreement with the petroleum industry on biofuels policy than ever before. Today, the nation’s largest integrated oil companies and all major U.S. gasoline retailer groups are unified with us on keeping the RFS working, exactly the way it was designed.

We’re going to be just fine under Trump and, in fact, 2017 is going to be an especially good year for ethanol.

Author: Tom Bryan
President & Editor in Chief