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Klobuchar Talks Ethanol Challenges at Nevada Plant

  • Monday, 15 April 2019 14:39

Ames Tribune

April 12, 2019


In order to battle the tough Friday afternoon winds, presidential candidate and Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar donned a lime-green hard hat and thick pea coat as she toured the Lincolnway Energy Plant in Nevada.

But for the presidential hopeful, battling the wind isn’t the issue, it’s battling major oil companies and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) small-refinery waivers on behalf of ethanol companies.

The waivers grant a small refinery temporary exemption from its annual Renewable Volume Obligations, which determine how many gallons of biofuel refineries will add to the motor fuel mix.

Following her tour of the ethanol plant, Klobuchar held a roundtable discussion with local ethanol plant producers and ethanol experts to hear the concerns and challenges the ethanol industry is facing.

Ethanol producers stated that small-refinery waivers issued by the EPA are “taking three billion gallons of demand or 20 percent of demand from the ethanol industry.”

“I think part of (this discussion) is taking on the oil companies and blatantly talking about it,” Klobuchar said. “Yeah, they have their market, but (ethanol) has their market, too, and they are trying to stomp on us and we need to speak out or we don’t have a chance.”

In terms of policy, Klobuchar said, “replacing the gallons lost” in the industry is important, as well as promoting cellulosic ethanol, ethanol produced from the fiber of a plant as a means to help recoup losses suffered in the past years.

Klobuchar also vouched for protecting and addressing how the waivers affect the Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) market and the year-round sale of gasoline with up to 15 percent ethanol, also known as E15.

RIN is a serial number assigned to a batch of biofuel that act as credits of compliance or a type of currency of the Renewable Fuel Standard Program.

One of the concerns expressed Friday was that that small refinery exemptions issued by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt eroded demand for ethanol in 2018 and created the RIN market for ethanol.

?(One of the things we can do) is the RIN market, and making sure it’s functioning and addressing whatever the problems are,” Klobuchar said. “We know that people are going to mess around with it, and those waivers mess around with it, too.”

In 2018, President Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consider reforming the RIN market, and to allow the year-round sale of E15.

However, many at the roundtable said that the EPA small refinery waivers and exemptions have been overused, threatening demand for corn-based ethanol at a time when farmers are already struggling.

“We don’t make a fraction of a cent on RINs,” said Blair Picard, Commercial Manager of Lincolnway Energy. “Our RINs go out the door free with our ethanol,so you could say on one hand, we’re not as concerned with the price of RINs as we are with the price of ethanol and our margin, which both have deteriorated as a direct example of these small refinery exemptions.”

Klobuchar blended the concerns of ethanol producers with the “immediate need” to address climate change and environmental issues.

The senator said she would address climate change on day one by entering the United States back into the international climate change agreement, bringing back the clean power standards adopted under the Obama Administration, and re-implementing gas mileage standards.

“I’m a strong believer that we have to do something about climate change on day one,” Klobuchar said following the roundtable discussion. “Those are rules so they are easier to put (out for a vote), and you may have comment periods, but you can get those done in the first year.”

Klobuchar also shared her visions to get to universal health care through a public health insurance option.

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