Trump Administration Trying to Please Everyone on Renewable Fuel Standard


In trying to please both the supporters and the critics of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the Trump administration may end up pleasing neither.  
For corn growers and ethanol producers, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed regulatory changes that will make it easier to sell gasoline with up to 15 percent ethanol (E-15). Current law effectively caps ethanol at E-10 for many metropolitan markets in the summer months, and since gas stations there can’t carry E-15 year-round they don’t carry it at all. The proposal, long sought by RFS proponents, removes this legal impediment and thus facilitates sales of this higher ethanol blend for gas station owners that choose to carry it. 
For refiners, EPA continues to grant numerous exemptions for small refineries. The law allows such exemptions for refining facilities that handle 75,000 barrels per day or less and have demonstrated hardship in complying with the RFS. The Trump administration has granted more such exemptions than the Obama administration, and doing so has the effect of lowering the overall targets and making compliance easier for all refiners both large and small. 
In sum, one provision allows more ethanol in the gasoline supply while the other allows less. Each side doesn’t like what the other is getting, and neither seems to think they are in a better place. Meanwhile, the long-term issues with the program, including adverse consumer impacts, remain unaddressed.