In this March 10, 2018, photo, President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Atlantic Aviation in Moon Township, Pa. Weeks after prodding lawmakers to stand up to the National Rifle Association,Trump is backing off his call for increasing the minimum age to buy an assault weapon — an idea strongly opposed by the NRA. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
At a Tuesday night rally in Iowa, President Trump made an announcement Iowa farmers had been waiting to hear. In fact, that’s exactly how he pitched it.
“And my Administration is protecting ethanol, all right? That’s what you want to hear,” Mr. Trump said at a rally in Iowa on Tuesday, and give him points for political candor. Mr. Trump then announced that his Administration will now allow fuel with 15% ethanol to be sold all year long. The Clean Air Act sets standards for fuel volatility, and E15 hasn’t been allowed in the summer because it can cause smog. Most blends contain 10% of ethanol.
That comes from a Wall Street Journal editorial blasting the proposal. And they are right to do so. There is a multitude of reasons to oppose ethanol subsidies and mandates, but this move goes beyond even the tangentially conservative arguments made in favor of those.
The biggest argument to be made against the move to expand the E15 is that it totally ignores the roles of the Executive and Legislative branches.
Some 20 Senators from both parties pointed out in a letter last week that the agency doesn’t have the legal authority to waive the Clean Air Act’s summer standards. The law lays out a waiver process for “blends containing gasoline and 10 percent denatured anhydrous ethanol.” But nowhere is a 15% blend mentioned.
EPA said in 2011 that it doesn’t believe it has the authority to allow year-round sales of E15, and that is not remembered as an era of agency restraint. If the standards are too strict, then Congress should change them. Oil companies plan to sue, even if their less than pure motive is heading off competition from cheap ethanol amid rising oil prices.
We are not so far removed from the Obama Administration that we can forget an era (as the WSJ points out) where executive branch agencies ran amok with regulatory mandates that seized power they normally wouldn’t have. Yet, conservatives who decried this practice are more than happy to sit aside and let the Trump Administration do it because, hey!, he’s Our Guy.
That’s not how the Constitution was set up, that is not what we spent eight years pushing back against, and it is not simply something you can shrug and say “My turn!” over.
It’s not a good look, and it’s obvious why the Trump Administration would make this move. Iowa is where the presidential election season begins, and has a very over-inflated sense of self as far as the state GOP goes. It’s also filled to the brim with farmers who have been adversely affected by the President’s trade war.
It’s also, if I had to guess, a bit of a thank you to Chuck Grassley, who did the lion’s share of the work in getting Brett Kavanaugh through the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley has been known to exert his will in that committee to stall things if he wants to make sure the corn farmers get their donations from the government.
Regardless of the why, however, this is not a move that the greater conservative movement should praise. Response outside of Iowa from the right has been fairly muted, but even that isn’t enough. It should be criticized, and it should be made known that the trade war and extending the E15 are both flawed policies that are far riskier than Trump needs to be.