Reuters writer Richard Valdmanis reported on Wednesday that, “Time has run out for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to challenge a federal court ruling that would limit the agency’s use of waivers exempting small oil refineries from the country’s biofuels regulations.

A decision by the administration of President Donald Trump not to appeal the ruling would mark a big win for the U.S. corn lobby and a blow to the oil industry.

“Under a decision reached late this week by top administration officials, the Environmental Protection Agency will now apply that 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling nationwide, so that just a handful of U.S. refineries remain eligible for the valuable exemptions. The decision, which follows weeks of deliberations, was described by the people, who asked not to be named before a formal announcement.”

Citing the coronavirus and the current market downturn, refiners have implored the Trump administration for emergency relief, including reducing biofuel-blending requirements nationwide. The EPA has authority under the Clean Air Act to pare annual blending requirements if it determines they ‘would severely harm the economy or environment of a state, a region or the United States.’”

“Cheap Oil and Empty Roads Are Halting American Biofuel Plants,” by Michael Hirtzer. Bloomberg News (March 19, 2020).

More specifically on the COVID-19 impacts on ethanol markets, Bloomberg writer Michael Hirtzer reported last week that, “U.S. ethanol makers are either halting or significantly cutting their production after the rout in oil prices made biofuels uncompetitive against gasoline, and as coronavirus keeps many drivers off the road.

With oil prices down, ethanol makers lose about 25 cents per gallon of biofuel, said Scott Richman, chief economist at the Renewable Fuels Association trade group. Ethanol this week fell to a record low of less than $1 per gallon.

The Bloomberg article added that, “If too many drivers stay home, there won’t be enough storage available to stow away unused ethanol. That could force plants to close down, according to Jeanne McCaherty, the chief executive officer of Guardian Energy Management, which overseas ethanol plants in Minnesota, North Dakota and Ohio.”

Nebraska Ethanol Avg. Prices. “USDA Daily Ethanol Report.” USDA- Agricultural Marketing Service (March 23, 2020).

“‘POET has not idled any biorefineries; however, we have temporarily ceased corn purchases at a number of locations and are actively evaluating biofuel production levels to reflect falling gasoline demand,’ said spokeswoman Jessica Sexe.”

National Weekly Ag Energy Round-Up. USDA Livestock, Poultry & Grain Market News– USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (March 20, 2020).

Also this week, Reuters writers Stephanie Kelly, Ahmad Ghaddar, and Koustav Samanta reported that, “Prices and profit margins for motor and aviation fuels globally are under severe pressure from a plunge in demand as countries enforce lockdowns and airlines ground planes, forcing more refineries to reduce output.”

South Dakota Ethanol Avg. Prices. “USDA Daily Ethanol Report.” USDA- Agricultural Marketing Service (March 24, 2020).

“Refining margins for gasoline and jet fuel have tanked because of decreased demand for transportation fuels, as the disease outbreak has forced businesses to close and governments to push residents to avoid travel and public places,” the Reuters article said.

Source: Keith Good, Farm Policy News