Will The Trump Administration Be Pro-RFS?

  • Friday, 09 December 2016 13:56

When presidential candidate, Donald Trump, campaigned in Iowa in January this year, he told a crowd at an ethanol summit in Altoona, “I am there with you 100 percent.”

Today, Trump is President-elect and while he hasn’t indicated that his position on ethanol has changed, his nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, raises concerns that a Trump administration may not exactly be 100-percent with the ethanol industry.

Pruitt, as Oklahoma’s attorney general, has engaged in legal battles with the agency he is nominated to head and isn’t fully sure that climate change is real.

More alarming for the ethanol industry is the fact that Pruitt has a history of opposing the RFS. In a 2013 Supreme Court brief, he argued that the EPA has ignored the “risks” that gasoline with over 10 percent ethanol (read: E15) has on fuel systems and the RFS’ supposed effect on food prices.

Just as concerning are his ties to the oil industry. In 2014, it was reported that he sent the EPA a letter that was mostly written by an Oklahoma-based oil and gas company.

Pruitt isn’t the only ethanol opponent on Trump’s proposed administration. Trump’s selection for Labor, Andrew Puzder, wrote in 2014 that the RFS had driven up food prices. That position wasn’t altogether surprising since Puzder runs CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s.

But is it all doom and gloom for the ethanol industry?

At that Altoona ethanol summit in January, Trump said he opposed any action by Congress to change any part of the RFS.

Then there’s the fact that Vice-President Elect Mike Pence hails from Indiana, the fifth largest ethanol producer in the country.

As Indiana’s governor, he supported the USDA’s Biofuels Infrastructure Program to increase the number of E15 and E85 pumps nationwide, including 110 new pumps in the Hoosier state. And when he ran for governor in 2012, Pence touted the fact that his campaign’s vehicles ran on E85.

Furthermore, as Labor Secretary, Puzder won’t have any direct influence over the RFS. And perhaps his opinion on the RFS has changed now that it is abundantly clear ethanol production has nothing to do with food prices.

As for Pruitt, some of Trump’s key supporters have indicated that they intend to keep the President-elect to his campaign promises on the RFS.

A Dec 9 letter to Trump from Iowa’s Gov. Terry Brandstad, Nebraska’s Gov. Pete Ricketts and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard thanked him for his “repeated statements of support for biofuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard during the campaign.”

“The nation’s biofuels industry has generated thousands of jobs throughout the nation, and biofuels will continue to grow our states’ economies with your help,” they said.

Brandstad, who helped Trump win Iowa, is also the President-elect’s nominee for Ambassador to China.

Even Iowa’s Sen. Joni Ernst, another Trump supporter, has said Pruitt will face a “rigorous” line of questioning from her on his position on the RFS during his senate confirmation hearing.

Last but not least, it should be noted that Trump is a known micromanager and he may be the one who ultimately decides his administration’s policy on the RFS and ethanol.