WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Midwest lawmakers say biofuel producers should be getting the same support and protection as oil companies.
Coronavirus shutdowns have slashed the demand for gasoline, and while the White House is pledging to buy 75 million barrels of oil, ethanol producers say their requests for help have gone ignored.
“We’re seeing the administration continue to side with big oil,” Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, said.
Finkenauer says the White House is turning its back on Midwest corn farmers by rejecting aid for biofuel producers while pledging millions to prop up oil companies.
“It’s just unconscionable to me when our farmers have been hit so hard over the last two years,” Finkenauer said.
The farmers grow corn for ethanol, which is blended into gasoline.
As millions of Americans have stopped driving because of stay-at-home orders, prices for oil and ethanol have dropped to nearly nothing.
“If you’re trying to help the oil industry because they’re in economic trouble, we got the same problem for ethanol,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said.
Illinois Democrat Cheri Bustos says the biofuel industry is also huge in her state.
“Iowa and Illinois — we’re the number one and and number two corn producers,” Bustos said. “You can bet that this is a fight we’re not going to lie down.”
Bustos and Finkeanuer want the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reconsider its decision to refuse farm aid for biofuel growers. And they’re slamming the United States Environmental Protection Agency, which is considering a plan to allow oil refineries to stop blending ethanol into gasoline.
Grassley says he will work to include help in the next coronavirus relief bill.
“We’ll have to see what they’re trying to do to help the oil industry and we’ll see what we’ll do to help the ethanol industry at the same time because the two are tied together,” Grassley said.
But farmers may have a long wait since the House is not in session and the Senate just returned to work on Monday.
The USDA announced a new multimillion-dollar initiative to increase the availability of biofuels on Monday.
Growth Energy, representing ethanol producers, says while it welcomes the investment, it’s a long term solution and right now, they need immediate relief.