From Washington, D.C. to the statehouse in Springfield, the political landscape shaped by the 2016 Elections is creating new opportunities for Marquis Energy, the largest dry-mill ethanol facility in the United States, and the ethanol industry.
On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump argued that “family farms are the backbone of America,” and “we are going to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and corn-based ethanol.” Rural America rewarded him for his pledge – in states such as Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin, rural counties that voted for President Obama in 2012 switched to pull the lever for Trump.
It’s easy to see why. In a letter early Feb. to President Trump, the Congressional Biofuel Caucus explained how the RFS supports 400,000 jobs across the country, creating nearly 86,000 jobs and generating $44 billion of economic activity in 2015 alone.
At the federal level, it is critically important rural America holds the new administration and Congress to its promises. The bipartisan Congressional Biofuels Caucus, recognizing the RFS is pivotal to job creation and economic growth while lowering gas prices nationwide, has already reaffirmed its commitment to this policy and announced its desire to work with the president in strengthening it. However, there are still many members in the House and Senate, from both parties, that do not support the RFS – and it’s up to rural America to flex its grassroots muscle to stop any attempt to weaken or eliminate the law.
With a new administration, the ethanol advocates may be presented with several opportunities to further the industry. In addition to vocally supporting the RFS, President Trump also committed to improve the economic environment through regulatory reform.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one key area of concern to the industry, as it has, at times, served as a stumbling block to growth. Until last November, the agency had set renewable volume obligation (RVO) numbers lower than required by statute. The new administration can ensure the EPA maintains RVO levels originally intended by Congress when it crafted the RPS.
Also, the agency can remove barriers to growth by eliminating the Reid Vapor Pressure (RPV) seasonal limitation and extending the one-pound RPV waiver to E15. This onerous regulation forbids the sale of E15 during summer months in much of the United States, even though E15 has fewer tailpipe emissions than straight gasoline and even E10. These are just a few of the many ways the industry can benefit from a new administration.
Back home in Illinois, where Marquis Energy leads the way in production as America’s largest dry-mill ethanol facility, the ethanol industry is making a huge impact for the state’s economy. Operating within a leading corn-producing state, the ethanol industry in Illinois accounts for a robust $5 billion in economic impact, supporting over 4,000 full-time jobs, and generating $37 million in state and local tax revenue and $39 million at the federal level.
With this demonstrated success, policymakers in Springfield are finding ways to encourage the growth of the ethanol industry, and have already put forth several proposals. Among these newly introduced measures are Senate Bill 1656, a proposed tax credit for businesses producing renewable chemicals and Senate Bill 1565, the consumer fuel choice bill.
The consumer fuel choice bill removes the tax incentive from E10 (which has already saturated the marketplace), and transfers a portion of the incentive to E15.
Because the tax incentive for E15 would be lower than the E10 incentive, the bill nets a significant return to the Illinois budget, making this one of the only bills that seeks to solve a portion of Illinois’ financial woes. There is no mandate with this bill, just enhanced choices for consumers.
Since the bill was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly in early February, our efforts for local legislators to jump on as co-sponsors have been successful. State Senators Sue Rezin and Chuck Weaver have committed to champion this vital piece of legislation for Illinois as co-sponsors.
Marquis Energy, along with our industry partners, will continue to fight for policies conducive to growth for the ethanol industry that provide more jobs and economic benefits to rural America, especially in Illinois. We will work to capitalize on legislative opportunities with the new administration that benefit, the ethanol industry, boost economic growth, build energy independence, improve air quality and provide consumers with more affordable fuel.