As coronavirus pushes ethanol prices to record lows, Senators say RFS critical for farming and rural communities  

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) joined a bipartisan effort with 14 of their Senate colleagues urging President Trump to support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as coronavirus pushes ethanol prices to record lows. Their request comes following news that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may appeal a recent unanimous decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals concerning small refinery exemptions.

With the drop in oil prices related to coronavirus and the pandemic’s projected decrease in gasoline consumption, some experts are projecting a reduction in corn used for ethanol production of 120 to 170 million bushels.

The Tenth Circuit ruling found that the EPA had abused the use of small refinery hardship waivers under the RFS, eliminating demand for billions of gallons of demand for renewable fuels and hurting rural communities, farmers, clean energy producers, and agribusinesses. 

“The RFS has been a critical economic driver for rural America and the agricultural industry in each of our states. Farm country has taken successive blows from low commodity prices, trade disruptions, inclement weather, and continued uncertainty over the RFS,” the Senators wrote. “Now, with the global economy bracing for the full consequences of the coronavirus, upholding this court decision is a small step that will have a resounding benefit for farmers and ethanol stakeholders who are on the ropes.”

For years, Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to strengthen the RFS to support American jobs and decrease dependence on foreign oil. Klobuchar has led several letters urging the Administration to cease issuing small refinery waivers and reject changes to the RFS that would upend stability and predictability for small businesses and rural communities. In December 2019, Klobuchar led a public comment letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler expressing concern over the proposed supplemental rule establishing the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) 2020 Renewable Volume Obligations and 2021 Biomass-Based Diesel Volumes. In October 2019, Klobuchar sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking the agency to document the impact of small refinery waivers on farm income, commodity prices, and renewable fuel usage. Klobuchar has also led a bipartisan push for the EPA to allow for the year-round sale of E15, including letters to the Administration urging them to expand waivers for the sale of E15 in the summer months. Klobuchar is an original cosponsor of the bipartisan Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, which would amend the Clean Air Act to allow for the year-round sale of E15.

Smith has long fought for a strong RFS. In October 2019, Smith pressed U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky about the Administration’s policy on the amount of corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels blended into the nation’s gasoline supply at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing. Smith has also pressed EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to take action, pointing out that the granting of waivers had increased by 370 percent since 2016, with “small refinery” waivers going to large oil companies under the Trump Administration.

You can read the letter here