- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2017

With his approval ratings tanking, President Trump got a badly needed show of support this week from the ethanol industry.

Biofuels leaders have launched a television ad, airing on Fox News, publicly thanking Mr. Trump for living up to his campaign promise to defend the ethanol sector and resist any changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS, the federal program that requires the blending of ethanol with gasoline, had been on the chopping block, with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt eyeing changes that would’ve both cut production and likely cost hundreds if not thousands of jobs across the sector.

But Mr. Pruitt last month backed off those proposed adjustments to the RFS — which included a plan to count ethanol exports toward congressionally mandated quotas, reducing the amount of ethanol actually used in America — after a massive public-relations push from Midwestern lawmakers and biofuels advocates.

The shift represents a campaign promise kept, and a victory for farmers and ethanol producers over the oil industry. Throughout the 2016 race, Mr. Trump told farmers in Iowa and elsewhere that he’d fully support the RFS and would stand in the way of any attempts to weaken it.

Ethanol proponents were quick to thank him for following through, launching the commercial earlier this week and urging Americans to call the White House and express their appreciation.

“As a candidate, Donald Trump supported biofuels,” a narrator says in the ad. “The president kept his promise, protecting farm and manufacturing jobs … Thank President Trump for supporting home-grown fuels and jobs.”

The commercial was funded by Fuels America, a coalition of pro-biofuels groups. Coalition members have cast the administration’s tack on the RFS as a boon for Midwestern states such as Iowa, which has benefited greatly from the ethanol explosion of the past decade.

“He’s consistently sided with voters across the heartland,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, a biofuels trade group, said of the president. “There are over 200 biorefineries across the nation, each serving as a key manufacturing hub, supporting jobs and creating vital markets for countless farmers. This industry is creating low-cost energy right here in America, and those communities deeply appreciate the president’s commitment to U.S. leadership on biofuels.”

Before publicly backing off proposed cuts to the RFS, Mr. Trump and Mr. Pruitt had come under intense pressure from oil refiners and other groups that would benefit if ethanol mandates were reduced.

In the ad, the ethanol sector points out that the administration’s new position on the RFS is under attack from many of those stakeholders.

“Now some of those oil refiners are attacking him,” the commercial states, casting the battle over the RFS as far from over.

One of the loudest voices in favor of changing the RFS, billionaire investor and former Trump adviser Carl Icahn, now faces scrutiny from federal authorities for trying to convince the president to slash the program.

In a quarterly filing, Icahn Enterprises revealed that Mr. Icahn has been subpoenaed over his efforts to tweak the RFS.

Mr. Icahn and his associates own a majority stake in CVR Energy, an energy company that would’ve saved a substantial amount of money if the rules of the program were relaxed.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York recently contacted Icahn Enterprises L.P. seeking production of information pertaining to our and Mr. Icahn’s activities relating to the Renewable Fuels Standard and Mr. Icahn’s role as an adviser to the president,” Icahn Enterprises said in its report. “We are cooperating with the request and are providing information in response to the subpoena. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has not made any claims or allegations against us or Mr. Icahn. We maintain a strong compliance program and, while no assurances can be made, we do not believe this inquiry will have a material impact on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.”

Specifically, Mr. Icahn had pushed the administration to lessen the requirements on energy companies. CVR Energy, like other companies that lack the ability to blend ethanol into gasoline themselves, are required by law to instead purchase biofuels credits known as RINs.

Those purchases can cost companies tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Weakening the requirements would’ve saved Mr. Icahn millions of dollars.

Mr. Icahn resigned over the summer.


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