But then Wheeler irritated the ethanol industry just a few days after announcing the E15 rule change, when he granted five new RFS waivers to refiners. Ethanol supporters who cheered the E15 change complained that the waivers let refiners off the hook.
Neil Koehler, CEO of Pacific Ethanol, and chairman of the Renewable Fuels Association stated:
If on the one hand you are allowing this additional market access by removing an arbitrary barrier, and on the other hand you’re destroying demand through inappropriate granting of a mass number of small refinery exemptions that arguably will interfere with the growth of the higher blends. It’s important that both get addressed.”
It seems to me that the RFS quotas are at least as arbitrary as the 10% barrier was, so what the ethanol industry really seeks is that refiners are forced to blend at least 10% but allowed to blend more. Refiners, on the other hand, would like to be able to blend any amount they choose based on what economics dictate, even if that means zero ethanol blended.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley complained on Twitter that these five “ridiculous RFS waivers” would translate into “nearly a billion bushels of corn demand lost.”
Senator Grassley and other ethanol proponents are angry that EPA is allowing the waivers to reduce the overall blending requirement to below the RFS mandate. They want the RFS requirements to be raised to make up for previous losses due to the waivers.
In following Pruitt, Andrew Wheeler’s EPA seems to have succeeded in angering both the oil industry and the ethanol industry, neither of which is getting everything they want.