Trump is caught between pandering on ethanol and fossil fuels

Fuel Fix:
Donald Trump is trying to walk a fine line between Iowa corn interests and the oil industry.

The Republican presidential candidate’s struggle to appease the antagonistic industries was in the spotlight Thursday when his campaign published a fact sheet calling for the elimination of a slew of regulations, including a scandal-marred system of buying and selling biofuel blending credits that some oil refiners hate.

“The EPA’s renewable identification number program penalizes refineries if they do not meet certain blending requirements,” Trump’s campaign said in the fact sheet. “These requirements have turned out to be impossible to meet and are bankrupting many of the small and midsize refineries in this country. These regulations will give Big Oil an oligopoly by destroying the small to mid-size refineries.”

If Iowa growers — who back the mandated use of ethanol and the credits created to make that system work — were worried Trump was backing off his support of the corn-based fuel, they needn’t be. Hours later the campaign re-issued the fact sheet with that language deleted and no explanation.

In the initial fact sheet released along with his speech to the Economic Club of New York, Trump said the climbing cost of those credits, known as renewable identification numbers, or RINs, threatens to bankrupt merchant refiners who must buy them because they don’t have infrastructure to blend required amounts of ethanol into their gasoline.

Trump endorsed the underlying biofuel quotas as recently as Tuesday, when he vowed to protect the government’s Renewable Fuel Standard and the corn-based ethanol that satisfies much of the program today. Especially given that commitment, the Trump campaign’s assertion “shouldn’t be interpreted as a reversal of support for the RFS,” said Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association.

The position wins support in the Corn Belt, though it is a rare point of division between Trump and the oil industry, which is pushing Congress to spike the biofuel mandates. On other energy issues, Trump is closely aligned with the interests of the oil industry. Trump advocates more drilling on public land and has promised to rescind environmental regulations, including the Clean Power Plan that restricts greenhouse gas emissions.

Still, Trump’s decision to inject himself to one side of the biofuel debate two days after pledging full support of the program in Iowa shows that scrutiny is intensifying as the price of biofuel credits climbs, said Timothy Cheung, vice president of research at the Washington-based consultancy ClearView Energy Partners LLC.
Trump's support for the ethanol requirement is one of the reasons I have trouble supporting him.  I have never worked in the fossil fuel business or the biofuels business.  But I am a consumer of fuel and I detest what ethanol does to small engines used on some of my equipment.

Ted Cruz offered the most sensible solution and that was to let the ethanol producers compete in the marketplace.  If they have a good product they will still be able to sell it.  If they do not, they should switch back to making food with their corn.

Ethanol requirements were part of a perceived scarcity that no longer exists.  In fact, there is now a glut of oil and gas available and imports are down significantly because of that.  For some reason, there is an export market for ethanol.  That is fine if someone wants the stuff let them buy it.  But do not force me or the people I buy fuel from to buy it.


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