Horan to Trump: More E15 will help farmers
By BILL SHEA
ROCKWELL CITY – Calhoun County farmer Bill Horan recently sat in the White House with President Donald Trump and made a recommendation on behalf of corn growers and ethanol producers across the country.
He urged the president and some of his top advisers to allow the sale of E15 ethanol all year long.
He didn’t get a conclusive reply during the meeting that occurred three weeks ago.
“There wasn’t a conclusion,” Horan said last Wednesday afternoon. “They’re still working on it.”
While he’s hoping for the best, he’s aware that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is already issuing waivers that would result in less ethanol being used. He said those waivers could take away 1 billion gallons of ethanol.
“I think people need to understand we’re in a precarious position,” Horan said. “We can’t afford to lose any more corn grind in the ethanol business.”
Horan’s preferred solution, the sale of E15 ethanol all year, would consume an additional 5 billon bushels of corn and add 25 cents to 35 cents to the price of each bushel.
“That actually would put a lot of farmers in the black,” he said.
Most of the ethanol on the market is in the form of E10, which is 10 percent alcohol. The E15 variety is 15 percent alcohol, but it isn’t sold during the summer months.
Horan said that’s because some cars made before 2000 could have a vapor lock if E15 ethanol is used in them during hot weather.
“The EPA has agreed with the oil companies that they don’t have to sell E15 all year for that reason,” Horan said. “They don’t trust the owners of cars older than 2000 to read the labels on the gas pumps. That’s the government, that’s the EPA I should say, taking care of everybody.”
The Trump administration and Congress have been debating the future of renewable fuels, and the president asked to meet with people in the industry.
Horan, who is the chairman of the board of Western Iowa Energy, a biodiesel plant in Wall Lake, was on vacation in Arizona when he received a call from the chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, inviting him to the White House meeting.
He flew to Washington and was accompanied to the White House by Grassley. He recalled that Grassley walked up the stairs to the second floor Cabinet meeting room instead of waiting for the elevator.
Trump; Vice President Mike Pence; White House Chief of Staff John Kelly; Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the EPA; U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa’s other Republican senator; U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and a known ethanol opponent; and several other biofuels and petroleum industry leaders were at the meeting.
Horan was invited to speak first, and he made his pitch for expanded sale of E15 ethanol. He said Trump didn’t initially seem to know what E15 ethanol is. The president also seemed surprised to learn that corn is grown in every state of the nation, Horan added.
He said Trump then asked Pruitt if it was possible to sell E15 year-round. He recalled Pruitt replying, “Mr. President, I believe we can.”
The meeting continued, but Cruz interrupted twice, according to Horan. He said each time, Ernst stopped him by saying “Ted, stop it,” and reminding her fellow senator that he had already had his chance in previous meetings to argue his position.
“It was kind of interesting,” Horan said. “She opened her mouth and it was a lieutenant colonel that came out.”
Ernst was a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard.
According to Horan, later in the meeting Trump again asked Pruitt if more E15 ethanol sales were possible. Pruitt responded that he would have to consult attorneys.
“That was his sign that he wasn’t going to help us at all,” Horan said.
After about an hour, Kelly moved to get Trump out of the meeting and back to the Oval Office, according to Horan. He said Trump stood up, said, ”There’s a crazy man in Korea I’ve got to deal with,” and left. He was apparently referring to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
“I think we moved the dial and gave the administration some information it didn’t have before,” Horan said of the meeting.
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