INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana-based ethanol plant is idling production after the Trump administration announced the granting of 31 refinery waivers to big oil companies.
According to an Aug. 20 press release from POET, production will idle at its Cloverdale location. The plant consumes around 33 million bushels of corn per year.
The company has reduced production at half of its biorefineries, with the largest drops taking place in Iowa and Ohio.
As jobs across POET’s 28 biorefineries are consolidated, corn processing will drop by an additional 100 million bushels across Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, South Dakota and Missouri.
Capacity reductions will affect hundreds of Indiana jobs. The ethanol industry creates more than $2.5 billion in annual economic activity for the state.
“The Renewable Fuel Standard was designed to increase the use of clean, renewable biofuels and generate grain demand for farmers,” said Jeff Broin, CEO of POET.
“Our industry invested billions of dollars based on the belief that oil could not restrict access to the market and EPA would stand behind the intent of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
“Unfortunately, the oil industry is manipulating the EPA and is now using the RFS to destroy demand for biofuels, reducing the price of commodities and gutting rural economies in the process.”
The RFS authorizes small refinery exemptions for refiners that process less than 75,000 barrels of petroleum a day and demonstrate “disproportionate economic hardship.”
Over the past two years, the EPA has issued waivers to refineries owned by ExxonMobil, Chevron and other large oil companies.
The recent announcement of 31 new waivers comes in contrast to the president’s rollout of year-round E15 earlier this summer.
The Indiana Corn Growers Association is critical of EPA’s granting of these waivers, which takes billions of gallons of ethanol out of the obligated levels defined in the RFS.
“These waivers directly impact rural America and corn farmers,” said Sarah Delbecq, farmer and president of ICGA.
“With immense uncertainty now and in the future for the ag economy due to planting delays and trade disruptions, more waiver abuse would only exacerbate the damage to farmers’ bottom line and overall demand for corn.
“To offer a source of stability, the EPA needs to fulfill the intended goals and promises in the original RFS.”
Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, voiced opposition to the waivers, as well.
He said that the misappropriation of waivers is “destroying our domestic market for renewable fuels” and “creating enormous stress in the countryside.”
“The Renewable Fuel Standard has been under attack for some time, but this most recent news is particularly egregious,” Johnson said.
“The farm economy has been floundering for many years. Farmers are making half of what they were in 2013, and farm debt is the highest it has been since the 1980s farm crisis.
“Policies like RFS that expand markets for American agricultural products are meant to help farmers during difficult times such as these. For the EPA to undermine this program just when farmers need it most is rubbing salt in the wound.”
According to National Corn Growers Association, redistributing and accounting for these waived gallons in the upcoming RVO rulemaking is one step the administration can take to improve the situation.
The organization encourages farmers to submit comments to the EPA on this issue. Farmers also can send a message directly to President Donald Trump.