America’s biofuel mandates occupy that rare policy sour spot, where they look horrendous no matter how you look at them. Regular readers will be well acquainted with this nightmare at this point, but here’s a quick run-down: the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) started as a Bush-era regulation required U.S. refiners to blend increasing quantities of ethanol into their fuel, and the Obama administration dutifully carried out this regime during its eight years. During that time, we learned that these quotas were: raising global food prices and starving the world’s poor; costing Americans billions of dollars every year at the pump; wreaking havoc on the environment; opening up new avenues for shady Wall Street chicanery; and making business a lot more difficult for American refineries. So what will Trump do about this mess?
It’s a difficult question to answer, because corn country was part of the reason President Trump was elected. Like many candidates before him, Trump backed ethanol quotas on the campaign trail as he worked his way through Iowa and the midwest. But one of Trump’s advisors, the billionaire magnate Carl Icahn, has been pushing for Trump and the new EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, to drop this support and walk away from these quotas. Bloomberg reports:
Scott Pruitt, who got the EPA administrator job, seemed to agree that the rule should be changed, Icahn said last week in an interview at his New York office. Icahn was disappointed with what he considered Pruitt’s scant knowledge of the issue during their first meeting, in November, but said he was satisfied after another meeting and additional phone calls.
Icahn’s motivations are as obvious as they are self serving: he owns refineries that are, as we mentioned above, struggling to deal with the RFS, and he wants to save money (or perhaps make more of it) by bringing about a swift end to these mandates. It wouldn’t be a great look for Trump to be swayed by an advisor’s personal financial stake in a policy change, but in this case, we wish Icahn the best of luck.