As Coronavirus Causes Steep Drop in Ethanol Prices, Senators Klobuchar, Smith Push President Trump to Support Renewable Fuel Standard

WASHINGTON D.C. [3/20/20]– As the coronavirus causes ethanol prices to drop to record lows, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) pushed President Trump to support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Their request, made with a bipartisan group of 14 Senators, comes following news that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may appeal a recent unanimous decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals concerning small refinery exemptions. 

With the drop in oil prices related to coronavirus and the pandemic’s projected decrease in gasoline consumption, some experts are projecting a steep reduction in corn used for ethanol production of 120 to 170 million bushels, further eroding the price farmers get for their crops. 

The Tenth Circuit ruling found that the EPA had abused the use of small refinery hardship waivers under the RFS, eliminating demand for billions of gallons of renewable fuels and hurting rural communities, farmers, clean energy producers, and agribusinesses.  

 “The RFS has been a critical economic driver for rural America and the agricultural industry in each of our states. Farm country has taken successive blows from low commodity prices, trade disruptions, inclement weather, and continued uncertainty over the RFS,” the Senators wrote. “Now, with the global economy bracing for the full consequences of the coronavirus, upholding this court decision is a small step that will have a resounding benefit for farmers and ethanol stakeholders who are on the ropes.”


For years, Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to strengthen the RFS to support American jobs and decrease dependence on foreign oil. Klobuchar has led several letters urging the Administration to cease issuing small refinery waivers and reject changes to the RFS that would upend stability and predictability for small businesses and rural communities. In November 2019 Klobuchar led a public comment letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler expressing concern over the proposed supplemental rule establishing the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) 2020 Renewable Volume Obligations and 2021 Biomass-Based Diesel Volumes. In October 2019, Klobuchar sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking the agency to document the impact of small refinery waivers on farm income, commodity prices, and renewable fuel usage. Klobuchar has also led a bipartisan push for the EPA to allow for the year-round sale of E15, including letters to the Administration urging them to expand waivers for the sale of E15 in the summer months. Klobuchar is an original cosponsor of the bipartisan Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, which would amend the Clean Air Act to allow for the year-round sale of E15.


Sen. Smith has long fought for a strong RFS, both in Washington and during her time as Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. In October 2019, Sen. Smith pressed U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky about Trump Administration policies which have limited the amounts of corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels that are blended into the nation’s gasoline supply at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing. Sen. Smith also led a 2019 letter pressing EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to stop abusing oil refinery waivers, pointing out that the granting of waivers had increased by 370 percent compared to the previous administration, with “small refinery” waivers going to large oil companies for the first time.  In November of 2019, Senator Smith joined several colleagues in submitting testimony for the Congressional Record calling for an end to waiver abuse.  Senator Smith is also a cosponsor of the bipartisan Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act.

You can read the letter here