WASHINGTON, DC -- Senator Joni Ernst says bad advice from the head of the EPA is to blame for President Trump signing dozens of waivers from the RFS for oil refineries, sending demand for ethanol plummeting.
In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Ernst said she believes President Trump wants to do what's best for the ethanol industry. However she says the Environmental Protection Agency, lead by Trump appointee Andrew Wheeler, is to blame for recent policies that have harmed the industry.
Earlier this year the EPA approved 31 waivers from the Renewable Fuel Standard. Those waivers are intended to help small, struggling refineries. However the waivers approved in 2019 included numerous profitable refineries. The waivers have eliminated the need of more than a billion gallons of ethanol. Two Iowa refineries have already shut down production to to this lack of demand.
Ernst says the President was mislead into approving those waivers by Wheeler.
"You know (President Trump) asked him to go ahead and take care of some of those waivers, so Andrew Wheeler did," Ernst said on Thursday," I don’t think Mr. Wheeler fully explained what it would do to the ethanol industry."
Last week Ernst met with President Trump, along with Senator Charles Grassley, Governor Reynolds and other midwestern leaders to discuss the impact the RFS waivers have had on the industry. Both Ernst and Grassley says they left the meeting in clear agreement with the president on how to reverse the damage to Iowa ethanol producers and farmers.
But Ernst says that plan has to go through Andrew Wheeler and she doesn't trust him to follow the president's wishes.
"I do get concerned because I haven’t seen it on paper. The fact is it has to come from the EPA. It’s not that the president will put big oil over our farmers. It’s that we have Andrew Wheeler at the EPA who has to put pen to paper and work through this," Ernst said. "We’re going to have to scrutinize whatever document he comes out with and make sure it is what we agreed to last week and what the president wanted to deliver for Iowa farmers."
Senator Charles Grassley said on Wednesday that he worries the president will be convinced to go back on his word after Thursday's meeting with senators from oil rich states.
Ernst says she is hopeful that President Trump could still release his ethanol plan this week. President Trump announced via Twitter three weeks ago that a "giant package" was coming for the ethanol industry.