Broin brings E15 message to Pence summit at Trump Hotel
Jeff Broin, founder and CEO of POET, the South Dakota company that builds and manages ethanol plants, brought his view that the government needs to authorize the sale of E15 blend year-round to a State of the Union summit chaired by Vice President Mike Pence at the Trump International Hotel last week.
Broin said that he had told Pence and other attendees that approving E15 for year-round sale will increase the ethanol industry’s use of corn and save rural America from the downward spiral in commodity prices and farm incomes. Broin said he also pointed out that candidates’ positions on E15 could be a factor in whether Republicans maintain control of the house, and acknowledged that he is also telling Democrats that the E15 issue is an opportunity for their house and senate candidates as well.
“As we look at the current situation in agriculture with significantly declining farm income and farmland values dropping, it is critical that the Renewable Fuel Standard stay in place and we get more biofuels into the fuel supply to help stabilize rural America,” Broin said in an interview Feb. 6 in a conference room of the Trump International Hotel. POET also posted a series of charts on the importance of ethanol to rural America.
Broin said the speakers at the summit were limited to administration and congressional officials and football players, but that he accepted the invitation to attend because he has known Pence since he was a congressman more than a decade ago and because POET has four plants in Indiana, where Pence was governor.
Pence “understands the issues that rural America is facing” due to low commodity prices, Broin said. “We have been friends for years,” he said, adding that Pence has been “a big supporter of biofuels.”
At the conference, Broin said he learned “it is clear the Republican leadership is focused on growing the economy, and biofuels is a great way to do that in the Midwest.”
Broin made the statements as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that EPA will soon determine if it has the legal authority to authorize a waiver from the Reid Vapor Pressure regulation that would allow the sale of E15 year-round. Pruitt did not speak at Pence’s summit, Broin said.
At present, most ethanol sold in the United States is an E10 blend, but 1,300 gasoline stations are now selling E15. But in summer, they must put a label on the pump that says it is for flex-fuel vehicles only. Broin maintains that the science shows E15 is safe year-round.
E15 is cleaner burning and better for engines and the atmosphere than regular gasoline, Broin said.
The ethanol industry has not expanded since 2008, when the percentage of ethanol in gasoline reached the blend wall level of 10 percent. To expand, the industry needs higher blend levels such as E15, which would use 2 billion more bushels of corn per year.
The problem, Broin said, is antiquated regulations and the oil industry blocking the higher-level blends.
Broin praised President Donald Trump for sticking with his campaign promise to defend the Renewable Standard, but said that either the administration through regulatory action or Congress through legislation needs to approve E15.
Broin also defended the system of credits to prove use of ethanol known as RINS (Renewable Identification Numbers) even though a Pennsylvania firm recently filed for bankruptcy and said the expense of RINS was the reason.
“We believe the RIN system under the RFS is well designed and functioning as intended,” Broin said. Extending regulatory relief to E15 “should assist refiners in lowering RIN prices. It is simple supply and demand,” he added.
Growth in the ethanol industry would allow more ethanol exports, particularly to polluted cities such as Beijing and New Delhi, Broin said.
Processing corn in the United States and exporting the ethanol would create both construction and processing jobs as well as benefit farmers, he said.
Trump’s campaign speeches in Iowa should lead to the administration and other Republicans supporting growth in ethanol.
But Broin pointed out that the politics surrounding the RFS have always been “incredibly bipartisan.”
And in the hint of a threat, he noted, “We are taking the election to everyone, including the Democrats. “We are always working hard to educate both parties on the value of biofuels.” ❖