- The Washington Times - Monday, October 8, 2018

President Trump on Monday said he would end the summer ban on high ethanol blends of gasoline, keeping his promise to farmers to boost biofuels.

Mr. Trump is expected to highlight the expanded use of blends of 15 percent ethanol, known as E15, when he visits Iowa corn country for a campaign rally Tuesday.

The announcement could boost heartland Republicans in tough races, such as Rep. David Young, whose Council Bluffs district Mr. Trump will visit Tuesday.

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The president has been a steadfast advocate of E15 despite opposition to the program from oil companies and Republican lawmakers from oil-producing states.

The Environmental Protection Agency currently bans E15 during the summer to reduce smog, although the policy has been found ineffective. Gasoline typically contains 10 percent ethanol.

Farm Belt lawmakers want increased sales of the higher ethanol blend to spur demand for corn.

A debate raged for months in the White House about how to satisfy both sides. The announcement Monday could be the solution, putting more E15 on the market while removing the costs incurred by refineries when switching between seasonal blends.

However, the oil industry has long opposed year-round E15, which could cut into its market share.

The industry has been pushing the message that E15 can damage many auto engines and standard gas pumps. The boating industry also is fighting the move, saying E15 is unsafe for boat engines.

The biofuel is not likely to gain traction in the 21 states where it is not currently available.

There already is talk of a lawsuit to challenge the move to year-round E15.

The rule changes aim to stabilize and reduce speculation in the ethanol market and reduce consumer confusion over ethanol standards, said a senior White House official.

The president consistently describes biofuels in terms of being pro-farmer and pro-domestic energy rather than a means to fight climate change, although the program was conceived as an environmental action.

“He thinks that it is good to have domestically produced energy and he thinks that this action will be good for the agriculture industry as well as the economy overall,” said the official who briefed reporters on the changes.

The official described the new rules as “in line with the president’s free-market approach to the energy market.”

The EPA’s rewrite of the ethanol rules will take months, but the expected result is a nationwide expansion of E15 at the pumps.

The administration’s goal is to get the rule finalized in time for the 2019 summer driving season, the official said.

The EPA oversees the decade-old Renewable Fuel Standard, commonly known as the ethanol mandate, setting the requirement for how much corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels refiners must blend into gasoline.

The program aimed to address climate change, cut dependence on foreign oil and help rural economies. It mostly failed to achieve the goals, and biofuels routinely fail to reach the minimum threshold in the mandate.

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