The summer driving season is upon us. Families across the nation are racking up more miles as they visit loved ones, enjoy vacations or drive their children to and from camp. The difference is this year, they are doing it without having to pay a high price at the pump. Gas prices across the country are nearly 10 cents per gallon cheaper this year than last year, letting families spend less on energy and more on making summer memories.
It’s no accident gas prices are down. Under President Trump’s leadership, America has become the largest producer of oil and natural gas – a significant achievement. President Trump has rolled back countless unnecessary regulations, approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, streamlined permitting for liquefied natural gas terminals and engaged in several other initiatives that have unleashed this economy and America’s energy dominance.
Yet, the decline in gas prices for American families is at risk because of the regulatory burdens of the renewable fuel standard (RFS). The RFS is an outdated program, created in 2005, in a misguided attempt to subsidize the American biofuel industry. It is an example of how good intentions can go awry with heavy handed regulation.
It forces local refineries, like HollyFrontier in Tulsa and CVR Energy in Wynnewood, to comply with biofuel blending requirements that cost jobs and investment. Because of this hardship, the very law that created the RFS also requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide small refinery exemptions (SREs), from the ethanol mandate for small refineries that are disproportionally harmed by the blending requirements.
Today, we have no need for the RFS. Because of the American energy resurgence, we’re no longer at risk of major fluctuations in the energy industry, but the economic and regulatory strain of the RFS on small refineries still exists. Yet, in an effort to cling to the ethanol mandate, the Big Corn lobby, to whom President Trump handed its biggest victory yet by allowing gasoline to be blended with up to 15 percent ethanol, is never satisfied. And they’re begging President Trump to deny all pending SRE petitions. The negative impact of that decision would be clear: More refineries may be forced to shut down – forcing hardworking Americans out of a job and spiking prices Americans pay at the pump.
In June, 12 of my colleagues and I sent a letter to the President, urging him to limit outside influence on SREs and to grant relief under the RFS as the law requires. It’s the right decision for both refiners and ethanol, because studies done by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign show that retroactive SREs do not harm ethanol and demand has remained at an all-time high.
President Trump has an opportunity to continue his legacy of energy dominance and keep gas prices low by granting SREs. I hope he takes it. And if he wants to help ethanol without risking higher gas prices, then he can easily provide regulatory incentives to export ethanol overseas, which would also improve our trade deficit.
James Inhofe, a Republican, represents Oklahoma in the U.S. Senate.