Bipartisan push back continues to the Trump administration’s ethanol exemptions for big oil. Since taking office, President Trump and his EPA have handed out 85 waivers to refineries that includes 31 exemptions granted in August of 2019. The latest round vocalized many farmers who are also feeling the impacts of the ongoing trade war with China. The policy has led some state leaders into taking action. That isn’t the case in North Dakota and Governor Doug Burgum.
Minnesota’s Democratic Governor Tim Walz announced on September 16th he was establishing a Biofuels Council through executive order. The order comes as a direct response to the Trump administration’s actions that have led to ethanol plants closing or idling production. The Council is tasked with finding ways to spur market and economic development.
Additionally, Walz joined South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem in sending the administration a letter raising concerns of their farming constituents when it comes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) waivers. The two are Chair and Vice-Chair of the Governor’s Biofuels Coalition according to Forum News Service reporting. North Dakota’s Republican Governor Doug Burgum is a member of the Governor’s Biofuels Coalition. It is unclear Burgum’s positions in this Coalition because the meeting minutes have not been updated on their site since 2008.
Yet, there is a past we can look at. Burgum has chosen to sit on the sidelines when it comes to ethanol policy. In April of 2018, I asked: “Where is Burgum on Renewable Fuel Standard?” At the time, Governors in America’s heartland sent a letter to President Trump about their concerns regarding proposed changes to the RFS. The 2018 letter, signed by six Republican Governors, asked the President to reject attempts to weaken the standard. Burgum chose not to sign the letter. Why did he refuse to sign on in 2018?
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Two Andeavor refineries in North Dakota received 2018 exemptions under President Trump and his EPA. Mandan and Dickinson. In September of 2017, President Trump delivered a tax speech at the Mandan refinery. Burgum was on the stage with the President at the refinery. The crowd was fairly enthusiastic then. I’m curious if any corn growers or ethanol producers were in attendance and if the enthusiasm remains?
Burgum didn’t show up for farmers in 2018. Meanwhile, the RFS and waiver changes have continued to pile up. Leaders in the states surrounding North Dakota and other farm states appear to be publicly taking action against harmful policies for farmers. While the bipartisan pressure continues to mount against this domestic policy, hopefully, a course correction will be made. Has Burgum weighed in at all other than to simply call farmers “patriots” for weathering the storm of the trade war?