Shaw says IRFA ready, willing to work with EPA in 2020

By The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association | January 16, 2020

At the 2020 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit Jan. 16, Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, addressed attendees on the state of the Iowa biofuels industry, characterizing it as frustrated but focused on moving forward, working cooperatively with EPA in 2020.

“Yes, the biofuels and ag community were frustrated on Dec. 19, but that frustration has slowly evolved into focus on the work to be done in 2020,” Shaw said. “I think that starts by trying to rebuild some type of working relationship with the EPA. Speaking for myself, I’m ready to try. I want to try to work with EPA to take steps, small and large, that can rebuild some trust. I think the question here is, does EPA want to do that?”

The EPA rule finalized Dec. 19 ignited frustration throughout the ag and biofuels community because instead of accounting for demand destruction caused by small refinery exemptions (SREs) in future Renewable Fuel Standard rulings by using an average of the number of previously granted SREs, providing market certainty, the rule stated EPA will account for SREs using an average of U.S. DOE recommendations, leaving the integrity of the RFS up to EPA’s discretion.

In his speech at the summit, Shaw emphasized that despite this disappointment, there were many other policy victories in 2019 that the biofuels industry can use to grow years into the future.

“My view of 2019 is no longer solely colored by the frustration of Dec. 19,” he said. “While it is certainly a headline, it is not the entire story. As I consider 2019 from a policy perspective, there were many more significant victories than defeats. And while admittedly not a quick fix to our current economic challenges, I enter 2020 with the feeling that future economic gains will be one day traced back to 2019.”

Shaw cited year-round E15, a five-year extension of the biodiesel tax credit, and progress in various trade markets among his list of 2019 victories. He also emphasized that while the Dec. 19 rule didn’t create the immediate market certainty the industry fought for, it did create a path forward.

“If the Trump administration follows through, then 2020 will be the first year where the RFS was fully implemented at the statutory levels since 2013,” Shaw said. “It’s hard to believe, but every year from 2014 to 2019, the congressionally mandated RFS levels have been undermined by either illegal general waivers under the Obama administration or abuse of refinery exemptions under the Trump administration. There has not yet been a year when the 15 billion-gallon RFS was truly implemented at 15 billion gallons.”

Shaw concluded by outlining top priorities for 2020 for the industry to stay focused on, including encouraging EPA to follow through on their promise to follow DOE recommendations and make the RFS whole, addressing a court-ordered remand of 500 million illegally waived gallons of ethanol from the RFS, and pushing for new trade opportunities with Mexico and China.

“2019 was not a fun year,” Shaw concluded. “But policy seeds were planted that could grow into meaningful opportunities for biofuels producers and farmers in 2020. The task before us is to work with the Trump administration to make this happen. I am ready and willing if they are. 2020 can return hope and financial stability to rural America. We stand here today urging the Trump administration to take the steps necessary to harvest the possibilities.”

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