U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, warned on Thursday that any attempt to count ethanol exports toward meeting the demands of the Renewable Fuel Standard should be "stopped in its tracks."

Reuters and Bloomberg both reported on Wednesday that the Environmental Protection Agency is considering counting ethanol exports toward meeting volume requirements under the law, a move that would benefit merchant refiners by lowering costs.

The report brought a sharp response from some in the biofuels industry. Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said there's no basis for the change and that, coupled with this week's news that the EPA was considering lowering 2018 requirements for advanced biofuels, "we are concerned about the EPA's and the Administration's commitment to supporting biofuels."

An EPA spokesman said in an email Thursday: "EPA is currently seeking input from all stakeholders involved. Nothing has been finalized at this time."

The Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires certain levels of biofuels to be blended into the nation's fuel supply, is seen as a boon to the agricultural economy, and it has broad bipartisan support in rural states such as Iowa.

The EPA proposed earlier this year keeping the required volume for traditional ethanol at 15 billion gallons, the same as 2017. However, last year, about 1 billion gallons were exported, according to industry figures. Counting exports to meet the requirement would undercut the law's intent, which is to require specific amounts to be used domestically, critics say.

“Any scheme to allow ethanol exports to fulfill obligations under the RFS would essentially gut the program and should be stopped in its tracks," Grassley said Thursday. "This action, if proposed, would undermine conventional ethanol and efforts toward higher blends of domestic, renewable fuels and reward the oil and refinery interests that have been working tirelessly to kill the RFS."

Earlier this year, refiners such as Carl Icahn lobbied the Trump administration to shift who would be responsible for mixing renewables into the fuel supply, but those efforts were not successful.

Earlier this week, the EPA said it was considering utilizing a waiver to lower amounts for advanced biofuels. That brought complaints from Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

Ernst wrote a letter to President Donald Trump reminding him of his "relentless backing" of the RFS. Grassley complained on the Senate floor Tuesday and took to Twitter on Wednesday, urging the president to read a personal letter he had written to him on the matter.

Contact Ed Tibbetts at etibbetts@qctimes.com.

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