Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Trump on ethanol hot seat

United States President Donald Trump spent two hours meeting farm leaders who complained about refinery exemptions from having to meet targets for incorporating ethanol distilled from corn.

Trump urged officials in his Environmental Protection Agency to soften the impact of recent policy moves that angered Midwestern farm states, such as Iowa, that are critical for his re-election.

On Aug. 9 the Environmental Protection Agency announced a decision to give 31 refineries exemptions from annual biofuel-blending requirements.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s immediately said the Trump administration had “screwed” farmers.

Trump suggested rescinding some of the newly granted waivers during the Monday meeting, according to four people familiar with the discussions who asked not to be named describing a private session. 

Trump was told the waivers may not be reversible, but officials offered other ideas to mitigate the political impact in Iowa.

Administration officials suggested expanding environmental credits that encourage production of “flex-fuel” vehicles that can run on high-ethanol gasoline and requiring government agencies to use more of them -- both steps that could.

The clash between the agriculture and environmental officials lines up with the clash between the lobbyists for the oil industry and farmers.

While ethanol took up most of the time, the meeting was intended to focus on trade with China.

Farmers are also angry that the trade war is costing them exports to China.

One could be forgiven for thinking North America's politicians are in a contest to determine which one can do the most self-inflicted damage. Trudeau and SNC Lavalin, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and budget cuts to offset his $3.6-billion tax gift to corporations and the rich and Trump, to mention only three.