Klobuchar Says Trump Biofuel Waivers Hurt Rural Farmers

DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) – Rebuking the White House for giving some oil refiners a pass on the amount of ethanol they must mix into gasoline, U.S. Senator and Democratic hopeful Amy Klobuchar accused the president Thursday of breaking his promises to rural farmers.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks during an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Public Service Forum in Las Vegas on Aug. 3, 2019. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

The Minnesota senator made the remarks in a press call from Iowa where she was joined by Patty Judge, a former Iowa lieutenant governor whose nonprofit organization Focus on Rural America is working to make Democratic economic agendas work outside their urban mainstays.

Klobuchar took aim in particular today at 31 waivers President Donald Trump issued last week against provisions of the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard that require oil refiners to blend corn-based biofuels such as ethanol into their gasoline or else buy credits in lieu of those blends.

These waivers have a real cost in Iowa, as the nation’s leading producer of corn and ethanol. Judge estimated that the 31 waivers would eliminate the demand for 1.43 billion gallons of biofuel, the equivalent of about 500,000 bushels of corn. This is on top of 54 exemptions Trump granted between 2016 and 2017, Klobuchar added, totaling over 4 billion gallons of biofuel, tightening the already rough circumstances for Iowa’s 42 ethanol plants. Klobuchar said these plants produce 32% of the country’s ethanol and employ about 43,000 people.

Touting her experience negotiating numerous farm bills, as well as her years of service on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Klobuchar called the issue “near and dear to my heart.”

Klobuchar accused Trump of forsaking rural Americans. He “is not fooling anyone,” and is “clearly in tight with the oil industry,” she added.

“What really bothers me is that this president made a promise to rural America … and instead every single day they get a new problem,” Klobuchar said, citing as examples the ongoing trade war with China and Trump’s failure to address weather, including severe flooding, that has hurt farm production in the heartland as of late.

Judge blasted Trump’s shifting biofuel policies as well, saying he has “ignored the need for certainty among rural business owners.”

Calling the waivers “a critical issue facing rural Americans and the agricultural economy,” Judge said corn farmers and ethanol producers are the one that have to pay when America cuts “sweetheart deals” with oil refiners.

Klobuchar recalled that the system was one “set up for struggling small refineries,” but now serves only to let industry giants like Exxon Mobil and Chevron skirt their biofuel responsibilities.

Klobuchar promised to address this in her first 100 days in office, vowing to “stop the abuse of this system.”

Details of those plans included enacting a law to ensure year-round sales of the 15% concentration, or E15, ethanol fuels, strengthening renewable fuel standards and promoting infrastructure for blender pumps, which draw from two separate fuel tanks to create hybridized fuels at the pump. This would ease the hurt for biofuels, which she said are “fighting just to stay in the market.”

The Minnesota senator also generally said she would reverse the Trump administration’s “wholesale granting of waivers,” stating that there should only be a handful given per year at maximum.

The number of waivers under the Trump administration have spiked. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican, said Friday in an interview on Iowa Public Television that less than 10 waivers were granted during the totality of former President Barack Obama’s two terms in office.

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