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Commentary by Doug Sombke, President of the South Dakota Farmers Union and Chairman, Safe Gasoline Campaign

On this Halloween, it seems we continue to get a trick and not a treat from the oil industry. They appear to have convinced some in the Trump Administration and much of the public that it is somehow our inalienable right to protect foreign oil supplies with U.S. troops while continuing their blatant efforts to thwart the development of cleaner, less expensive, renewable transportation fuels made right here at home.

The President even said we might have to go to war to protect oil in Syria while his EPA Is At War With The Ethanol Industry. The President compared his negotiations with farmers on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) negotiations to dealing with the Taliban. That’s ironic considering the President is currently in negotiations with terrorists over the control of oil and the money to fund them in Syria.

The U.S. spends $81 billion per year to protect the “world’s oil supplies” – that’s a 57 cent per gallon hidden tax on gasoline.  President Trump has the authority to stop the buck now with his presidential pen – but won’t. The White House needs to stop defending oil companies and start defending capitalism and American innovation. The Democrats have linked oil and the tobacco industry – where are the Republicans?

Lately, there has been a lot of heated discussion about the RFS, ethanol waivers, and a new plan for biofuels — and for good reason.  As the nation continues to look for a better path forward, it must not lose sight of the bigger picture. There are a multitude of related problems facing the economy that must be addressed and solved.

With one stroke of his pen, the president could get the RFS refinery waiver monkey off his back (#DearMrPresident). The President could protect the health of all Americans, help the auto industry make more lower-cost fuel-efficient vehicles, and reduce the need for imported oil by one billion barrels or more per year (25% is still imported from OPEC) and save thousands of family farms. Time will tell which presidential candidate is going to stand on the side of wanting more toxic pollution, more sickness, more death, more economic loss, more hidden taxes, and is willing to continue to place our soldiers in harm’s way – for oil.

Back to the Future 

President George W. Bush established the moment to develop cleaner alternate fuels with the establishment of his Clean Fuels Task Force during his Vice Presidency and with his leadership as President created the role for alternative fuels to clean up gasoline in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

President George W. Bush established the Energy Task Force which lead to the creation of the nation’s first Renewable Fuels Standard in Energy Policy Act of 2005 which was then expanded and extended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Big Oil and EPA have tricked the American public for decades. The President is getting duped too. It’s past time for President Trump to follow suit and force his EPA to enforce section 202l of the Clean Air Act, the Congressional intent of the RFS, and now establish a higher-octane standard in the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Proposed Rule currently under his EPA’s consideration. Now’s the time to evolve the Bush’s RFS legacy into Trump’s renewable octane standard legacy. Knowledge trumps ignorance is bliss. It’s all about the [oil] economy – which must consider the true cost of gasoline – just like the true price of tobacco. 

Related Research: A History Lesson 

  • May 26, 1908: Mideast Oil Discovered — There Will Be Blood. The onslaught of oil discoveries September 1908 was a turning point for the Middle East. Burmah Oil Co. became Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. in 1935, British Petroleum in 1954, and BP in 2000, and the $65 billion environmental disaster plaintiff in 2010.
  • In 1951, the United States and the United Kingdom two countries signed the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement, which helped cement full diplomatic relations between them, and provided U.S. arms sales and military training to the Kingdom. “Every American president in the past 50 years has considered the free flow of oil through the Persian Gulf as a vital national security interest for the United States,” said Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. PBS, Sep. 20 2019
  • Trump Calls for Defense, Use of Syrian Oil Field, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 25, 2019. “I always said if you’re going in, keep the oil. We’ll work something out with the Kurds so that they have some money, so that they have some cash flow. Maybe we’ll get one of our big oil companies to go in and do it properly.” 
  • Trump claims he has ‘secured the Oil’ in Syria. Here’s what’s really going on, Washington Post, Oct. 22, 2019. What does the Islamic State have to do with it? When the Islamic State swept across Iraq and Syria in 2014, it took control of strategic oil fields in both countries. The militant group subsequently turned a profit by selling oil at about $100 a barrel to black market traders or refining it in local makeshift facilities, according to Butter. In 2015, the Treasury Department estimated that the group made about $40 million a month, or nearly $500 million a year, from producing and exporting oil.
  • Trump Invokes Taliban in Latest Negotiations on Biofuel Plan, Bloomberg, Jennifer Jacobs, Jennifer A Dlouhy, and Mario Parker, September 19, 2019 – “Politically, with the ethanol industry, too much is never enough,” said Scott Segal, a lobbyist with Bracewell who represents refiners. “The administration really has no assurance that agribusiness won’t demand more and more, just as they always have.” How much is too much benzene? According to the American Petroleum Institute’s statement in 1948 its ZERO – but there’s still billions of gallons of benzene in the nation’s gasoline.  Funding ISIS or the American farmer should not be that hard of a choice. Maybe not for Mr. Sega, but certainly for the President.