HURON, S.D., Sept. 30, 2019 – Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle joined with South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke in calling for the Trump Administration to use the pending fuel economy rule as a solution to the current ethanol and agriculture crisis.
In a wide-ranging interview on a popular South Dakota Business Radio program, Sombke and Daschle stressed that moving to high octane gasoline is a way to build on the success of the Renewable Fuel Standard. The path to get there is through the Safe Affordable Fuel Efficiency (SAFE) rule currently being finalized by the Trump Administration.
Daschle characterized the oxygen standard in the Clean Air Act as the launch vehicle, and the RFS as the booster rocket for the tremendous growth of the ethanol industry. The question now, he said, is how do we stay in orbit, and the answer is to recognize the high octane value of ethanol.
Moving to a 98-100 RON (research octane number) and using 30% ethanol blends would provide a range of benefits, he said, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, providing new markets for agriculture, and improving our energy security.
“If we got to that point, my guess is we wouldn’t have to talk about this in the future, it would create the kind of benefits and advantages we have been talking about for years.”
Daschle went on to say there was almost no chance to revisit the RFS in such a divided Congress but there is no need to do so, the goal should be to build on it.
“If EPA was doing its job we would not even be talking today, the SAFE rule gives us a vehicle to use the law as it currently exists to allow for the regulatory changes needed to create the demand for the higher octane we know is needed.”
Sombke echoed Senator Daschle’s comments, noting the President could direct EPA to enforce toxics controls while increasing octane with the stroke of a pen. What is frustrating he said is the lack of vision by the ethanol industry, and whether the RFS is on solid ground or not, the fact is that corn ethanol is capped at current levels of 15 billion gallons when the industry could do so much more.
“Why would we be satisfied with that?” Said Sombke. “Why aren’t the ethanol producers and corn growers joining us at SDFU to capture more of the world’s largest gasoline market,” he said.
Sombke explained the SAFE Rule requested comments on how octane could be increased consistent with the toxics controls in the Clean Air Act. SDFU and several supporting organizations provided significant data to EPA showing how, if coupled with the required toxics controls, ethanol could provide the lowest cost, lowest carbon octane legally allowed. “But we need the President to step up and provide leadership by enforcing the law.”
“Auto makers need and want high octane fuels. American agriculture can provide those fuels and solve several problems. We need to be talking about what we can do, not what we can’t.”