Last week our good friend Doug Sombke of the South Dakota Farmers Union appealed directly to President Trump.
It was a simple, direct, and thoughtful message: the agriculture crisis can be averted if the Trump Administration would simply let us compete in the fuel market, which is our highest value and most important contribution to our country’ security. In other words, let us help ourselves!
The Administration put a band-aid on the hemorrhaging Renewable Fuel Standard by vowing to re-allocate 500 million of the 4 billion gallons our industry has lost to EPA waivers to Big Oil. Putting back 500 million gallons of demand may help but it fails to address the long-term problem of an EPA that does not allow ethanol to fairly compete in the fuel marketplace.
This Farm Crisis can only be solved with increased demand and new markets. At the same time, a fuel economy rule that has become a bitter battle between the Administration and the states led by California, threatens to seriously damage the economy by forcing automakers to comply with multiple standards which raises costs to us consumers.
The solution to both issues is for the Trump EPA to open the market to higher ethanol blends so a low carbon, high octane fuel like ethanol can compete. To do this, President Trump can simply direct EPA to obey the law and reduce carcinogenic, toxic compounds refiners are currently allowed to use to increase octane. Higher blends of ethanol can compete head to head and beat anything the petroleum industry can come up with. No subsidies required, just let us compete.
This solution transcends politics — Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley teamed with former Colorado Democratic Senator Tim Wirth last week urging environmentalists to look at the benefits of higher blends of ethanol, such as the Premium E30 we are using right here in northeast South Dakota. That level of ethanol and octane would create new markets for corn, allow automakers to meet fuel economy standards, reduce carbon emissions, and potentially double the demand of ethanol we are currently seeing from the RFS.
None of the benefits to the public such as saving our family farms, creating jobs, providing energy security, and reducing carbon emissions is as important as the health benefits from Glacial Lakes Energy — Watertown is an original 40 million gallons per year (mgy) nameplate ethanol production facility. It became operational in August 2002. In 2007, the facility was expanded and currently produces 120+ mgy of ethanol per year.