An Open Letter to EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler

FROM THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE: American Coalition of Ethanol's Brian Jennings has some advice and suggestions to share with acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
By Brian Jennings | August 14, 2018

With the resignation of Oklahoma’s favorite son Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler now assumes the role in acting capacity until the U.S. Senate confirms whomever President Trump decides to appoint for the long haul. As Wheeler becomes the 21st person to take the reins of EPA, this seems like a good time to offer him some advice.

For starters, a good rule of thumb might be to do the opposite of Pruitt. Don’t fly first class on the taxpayers’ dime. Don’t exploit your position in an effort to get your wife a Chick-fil-A franchise. Don’t expect to pay a coal lobbyist $50 per night to stay at his Washington, D.C., townhouse. I could go on, but you get the point.

On a more serious note, here are some recommendations for how EPA can build bridges back to the ethanol industry. Consider this a blueprint for restoring the trust EPA has broken with farmers and rural America.

1. Make good on the president’s promises to allow E15 use year-round.

Trump has made three or four public promises to allow E15 use year-round and has not said it has to be a package deal whereby refiners get another win in exchange. EPA should issue a clean and legally defensible proposal to provide Reid vapor pressure (RVP) relief for all ethanol blends greater than 10 percent so a final rule is in place before the spring of 2019.

2. Make good on Trump’s Renewable Fuel Standard promises. 

As a former Senate staffer, perhaps you will have better appreciation for the need to adhere to the letter of the law when implementing the RFS than Pruitt. Trump proclaims to support the RFS. Here are steps EPA could take with the RFS to reverse some of the damage Pruitt has done to ethanol demand.

• Stop handing Small Refinery Exemptions out like trick-or-treat candy. Immediately reallocate the 2.25 billion gallons already waived. If and when EPA issues legitimate Small Refinery Exemptions, reallocate the waived gallons to remaining obligated parties as required by the law.

• Comply with the court ruling (Americans for Clean Energy et al. vs EPA) on EPA’s improper use of the RFS waiver authority, which requires you to restore a 500 million-gallon renewable identification number (RIN) obligation to the 2016 renewable volume obligation (RVO).

• Take the export RIN scheme to the trash once and for all. It’s illegal, would add insult to the trade war injury already hurting farmers, and jeopardize our ability to export ethanol.

• Adopt the most recent Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET model to determine the life-cycle analysis of corn ethanol. EPA’s analysis of the carbon footprint of ethanol is severely flawed and has not been updated since 2010.

• Clear the red tape stalling the progress of cellulosic biofuel. Unfortunately, it can take more than 1,000 days to approve new pathways for cellulosic feedstocks. For plants with approved pathways, EPA appears to be slow-walking the registration process. Accelerate the approval of cellulosic ethanol registration applications. This would help put more volumes of cellulosic biofuels online as intended under the RFS.

3. Unleash high-octane fuels to help meet future Corporate Average Fuel Economy greenhouse gas (GHG) standards.

Ethanol is a superior high-octane, low-carbon fuel that can help automakers comply with fuel economy and GHG standards and save consumers money at the pump. Here are actions EPA should take to help pave the way for a high-octane future.

• Approve an alternative certification fuel with 25 to 30 percent ethanol and a minimum octane of 98 to 100 RON so automakers can begin testing future engines on a high-octane blend.

• Establish a minimum octane performance standard for fuel in the range of 98 to 100 RON. This will foster a marketplace that spurs competition and innovation to produce low-cost, high-octane fuels.

• Restore credits to automakers for the manufacture of flexible fuel vehicles and consider a new incentive for future engines designed to achieve optimal efficiency on high-octane fuels.

• Correct the outdated MOVES2014 model used in calculating the tailpipe and evaporative emissions of ethanol.

Mr. Wheeler, everything we are asking of you is based on the law and enabling consumers to have a choice at the pump. You have an incredible opportunity to build bridges and restore trust. Don’t let us down.

Author: Brian Jennings
Executive Vice President
American Coalition for Ethanol