President Donald Trump wasn't in the room Tuesday, but he was on lots of lips as members of the biodiesel industry in Iowa got together in Newton to push back against potential cuts to the Renewable Fuel Standard.
At an event at Renewable Energy Group's biodiesel plant in Newton, speakers repeatedly invoked the president's promises during the 2016 election that he would support renewable fuels.
"He made that promise several times on the campaign trail," said Grant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board. “It is very well documented."
Trump's pledges to support the decade-old law that requires a certain level of renewable fuels be used in the nation's gasoline supply have been repeatedly invoked since the Environmental Protection Agency raised the prospect last month that it might cut levels of biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels.
Trump used the renewable fuels issue against rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a critic of the Renewable Fuel Standard, before the 2016 Iowa caucuses. And farm state lawmakers and the industry have not forgotten.
The EPA has said that it has made no decision on required volumes yet and is seeking input from stakeholders. But the industry and farm state lawmakers are treating the potential cuts as a shot across the bow — and a direct threat to rural wellbeing.
Kimberley said Tuesday that “gutting the RFS would worsen the struggles farmers are now already facing and could push us even deeper into an ag recession.”
There are 13 biodiesel plants in Iowa, including in Clinton and Washington, Iowa, according to the Iowa Biodiesel Board's web site.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was at Tuesday’s event, also had Trump on his mind. “Whether it’s biodiesel or anything else, I believe a platform isn’t just to run on but it’s also to stand on,” Grassley told the group.
The Iowa Republican noted he spoke with the president about the issue a little more than a week ago, which he has said resulted in a meeting being scheduled for next week with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general who has been a critic of the RFS, has been the target of a lot of suspicion over the potential cutbacks.
Grassley said his conversation with Trump also involved a third person whom he wouldn’t identify but added is “very involved” in the issue. And while he didn't disclose the contents of the conversation, either, Grassley said, "I very definitely came to the conclusion the president still supports ethanol and wants people under him to know biofuels are very important."