Upholding the Renewable Fuel Standard
By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)
Nov. 26, 2019
While working as governor and now as your United States Senator, I’ve fought for South Dakota’s corn and corn ethanol producers to make certain they’re getting a fair deal under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). For over a decade, the RFS has provided the statutory certainty necessary for the corn industry to grow and prosper in the United States. As a result, corn ethanol has become a vital component of our nation’s fuel supply. Many consumers now seek out ethanol blends when they’re at the gas station due to their lower price tag and high octane rating. Just this year, the EPA announced that E-15—a type of fuel that is made up of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline—can now be sold year-round. This has helped South Dakota corn farmers and ethanol producers.
The RFS is a program that was created by Congress in 2005. The goal of the RFS is to increase our use of renewable fuels and decrease our dependence on foreign oil. The RFS is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), so it’s the job of the EPA to make sure that 15 billion gallons of ethanol are blended into our nation’s fuel supply annually. The number of gallons required to be blended is based on targets called Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO).
However, the RFS has been undermined in recent years due to the EPA issuing a high number of exemptions to small refineries which claim that complying with the RVOs would cause them significant economic hardship. In issuing so many exemptions, the demand for corn and corn ethanol has been reduced, thus impacting farmers’ revenue for the year. I have shared my concerns about small refinery exemptions with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on a number of occasions. Midwest farmers are facing low commodity prices, trade instability and extreme weather—they don’t need further headaches from the federal government.
During multiple meetings at the White House with President Trump this month, I’ve reiterated the importance of making sure the EPA revises its practices to guarantee that any small refinery exemptions would not reduce the 15 billion gallon requirement for conventional ethanol. The agreement, as originally directed by President Trump, would require the EPA to, prospectively, account for small refinery exemptions by utilizing a three-year rolling average of exemptions granted by the EPA. However, the supplemental proposed rule released by the EPA this fall does not achieve the 15 billion gallon requirement. I have been in contact with the EPA to urge them to change their final rule. The president has told me that he is committed to making sure the EPA follows through on its obligation to blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol into the fuel supply. I’m grateful for the president’s leadership on this issue and it’s time for the EPA to uphold the president’s commitment to corn and ethanol producers.
The RFS is an important program for ag states like ours. Using more corn ethanol is a win for our farmers and a win for our planet, since they have a smaller carbon footprint than fossil fuels. I’ll continue monitoring the EPA and speaking with President Trump to make sure the integrity of the RFS is upheld.