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Corn State Resolve

October 11, 2019
Column

It is hard to miss the importance of corn in our great state where we proudly refer to ourselves as Cornhuskers! In fact, the Midwest is often called the “Corn Belt,” because corn is so integral to our economy and culture. We use every part of the plant, from feed to silage to ethanol to maximize its value. Ethanol, in particular, has been a positive economic driver for our corn producers.

Focus and debate on ethanol and biofuels policy is as high as it’s ever been in Washington. Previously, E-15 (a type of fuel where gasoline is blended with 15 percent ethanol) was not approved during the summer months due to a technicality in the law which meant EPA had to allow it via a rulemaking, even though it had a lower volatility than E-10, which can be sold year-round. In May, President Trump announced the sale of E-15 in the summer months, greatly benefitting states like Nebraska.

However, not all policies have been positives for biofuels. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to issue Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs) for large or unqualified refiners under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) program. These SREs undermine the integrity of the successful RFS program and lead to uncertainty for retailers and producers. Arbitrary exemptions threatened to stop progress on biofuels. The Nebraska delegation has been particularly instrumental in fighting back.

From the start of these waivers being issued, I have been vocal in my opposition to undermining the RFS. I led a bipartisan letter to the EPA stressing the consequences of the waivers and demanding a reversal of this policy. I also cosponsored H.R. 3006, the Renewable Fuel Standard Integrity Act, which would require any waivers to be requested before the volumes are determined so they can be reallocated.

Fortunately, President Trump recently laid out a plan to rectify the situation. This plan would ensure biofuel targets are met by accounting for the gallons lost due to SREs based on a three-year average. This stability will allow ethanol producers and retailers to make important business decisions without having to worry about refineries following through on their obligations. The President’s RFS plan now gives the EPA consequences for arbitrary and unnecessary waivers by having them account for the lost gallons due to the SREs.

While recent developments are certainly positive, we must remain vigilant. Without putting up a fight, it is tough to say where this issue would be today. The success of ethanol is good for Nebraska and our economy and I am grateful for the President’s commitment to ethanol.

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