OPIS Biofuels Headlines

January 31, 2017
Dinneen, Shaw Reassure Iowa Biofuels Proponents: Trump Will Support RFS

ALTOONA, Iowa -- Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President Bob Dinneen and Iowa RFA Executive Director Monte Shaw opened the 2017 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit on Tuesday morning by reassuring the packed room of biofuels proponents that their industry is in good hands under the Donald Trump administration.

Dinneen and Shaw spoke at the same podium on the same stage in front of the same backdrop in the same ballroom where Trump delivered a promise on the campaign trail last January that he would support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

"Donald Trump stood here and pledged to support renewable fuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard," Shaw said. "His belief in renewable fuels and the Renewable Fuel Standard -- I believe -- is very sincere."

But since Trump's election victory, the biofuels industry has grown increasingly nervous about his administration's plans for the RFS as he has consistently nominated people with anti-RFS track records.

"I get all of the reason for angst, but take a step back," Dinneen said. "It is Donald Trump's administration, and they understand what the boss wants to do with the RFS."

Dinneen said he was comforted by the Senate confirmation hearing of Scott Pruitt -- Trump's nominee to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- where Pruitt pledged to support the RFS and carry out the law as intended by Congress.

On Secretary of Agriculture nominee Sonny Perdue -- a former Georgia governor who many have feared will look after his state's poultry industry over the ethanol industry -- Dinneen had a reassuring anecdote.

Dinneen said he talked to American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall last week. Duvall told Dinneen that he asked Perdue if he planned to support the RFS.

"Of course I'm going to support the RFS," Perdue allegedly said. "What the hell else are we going to do with all that corn?"

Even with Trump's special adviser for regulatory reform Carl Icahn -- the majority stakeholder of RFS obligated party CVR Energy and perhaps the most outspoken and prominent opponent of the RFS -- Dinneen found areas of potential common ground.

"Yes, Carl Icahn is not a fan of ethanol," Dinneen said. "But his charge is to reduce the regulatory burden on all of business, and that's something we can work with him on."

Dinneen suggested that the Obama administration missed several opportunities to bolster the growth of the biofuels industries, predominantly through fumbling delays and uncertainty with the Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs).

"The last administration was so focused on moving on from corn ethanol that they were missing the success of an industry that was right in front of them," Dinneen said. "Our export markets are not what they should be. It could be so much better if we had somebody at the top pushing for us. We now have a president who is ready to remove some of the barriers that have impeded our industry's growth over the past several years."

On that note, however, Dinneen did warn that engaging in trade wars with Mexico and China -- two major potential destinations for U.S. ethanol exports -- could wind up being counterproductive for the industry.

"There are going to be tremendous growth opportunities out there, but we need to make sure we don't get caught up in unnecessary trade wars," Trump said. "At the end of the day, he's a business negotiator and he gets it."

Shaw's address focused on which direction renewable fuels might take in 2017 -- continuing onward with "unrelenting growth" seen in 2016 or struggling in a cloud of political uncertainty.

"Through it all, this industry has been unrelenting in its drive," Shaw said. "At the end of the day, I think that's what you're going to see continue this year."

In his welcome address, Iowa RFA President Eamonn Byrne said he believes the industry's strong support in the Senate will keep the industry safe, especially with Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst.

Wearing a vibrantly colored tie with yellow and green corn cobs, Dinneen showed evidence that suggested how heavily the U.S. Corn Belt swayed the election.

"Make sure to hold him to his promise and he understands how successful this industry can be," Dinneen advised. "If you do that, we will all make ethanol great again."

--Jordan Godwin, jgodwin@opisnet.com

Copyright, Oil Price Information Service

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