It all started last weekend when word of his visit started to leak out and the ethanol and agriculture community began wondering aloud if the whole thing was anything more than a hollow good will tour to deflect attention from his anti-ethanol policy.
Day 1 of his Redemption Tour had Pruitt telling ethanol producers his role was to provide stability to the market only to be told the company he was visiting would be shutting down a brand new, state-of-the-art renewable diesel plant because of market volatility created by Pruitt’s indiscriminate use of small refiner waivers. The same meeting included farmers telling Pruitt they were “mad as hell” at him.
Trying to deflect criticism, Pruitt told ethanol producers EPA had the authority to expand E15 sales year-around and that EPA could reallocate RINs lost to waivers. But the next day, he said EPA lawyers weren’t so sure about reallocating RINs and RVP could only be done if part of a package in which refiners got something too. Really? 1.6 billion gallons in lost biofuel market share is not enough for them?
So much for market stability.
Kansas Corn Growers Association President Ken McCauley summed up the feelings of those who met with Pruitt when he said, “Our concern was that Administrator Pruitt thought he could come to Kansas, take a few photos with smiling farmers and tell the President that corn farmers are okay with his actions. That would be a gross misinterpretation of what happened here today.”
With that, day 1 was in the books.
Day 2 of Pruitt’s redemption tour started with farmers hosting a rally to protest Pruitt’s moves undercutting the RFS while the conservative Iowa-based America’s Future Fund started running an ad titled, “You’re Fired” and admonishing Pruitt for acting more like the Sultan of Brunei than the head of a federal agency. In a statement Pruitt said he thought it was “important to hear directly from the community that EPA regulates, and today we heard from farmers and utility workers about the impact of the Agency’s work.” We’re sure protest ralliesand negative ad campaigns are not exactly what Pruitt had in mind.
Day 3 started with a bang as DC reporters got wise to the PR-fail engulfing Pruitt and one publication asked if ethanol would finally tip the balance and put Pruitt out on his ear. It sure looked that way after Iowa’s Republican governor said, “Pruitt needs to follow through with what the President promised to Iowans, and if he can’t, then we need to find someone who will.”
Forecasts of Mr. Pruitt’s future were stark.
The GOP Chairman in Anderson County, KS summed it up thusly: “I think that Mr. Pruitt probably is a dead man walking,” said Dane Hicks. “I can’t imagine he rebounds from this in any way to salvage his position. I would expect his resignation soon.”
Neil Koehler, CEO of Pacific Ethanol, which operates nine ethanol plants was equally direct when he said, “We have a rogue EPA secretary who should probably find another job because he’s making the President look like a liar.”
The headlines said he is “hurting industries” and the news featured local politicians rallying the crowd and asking, “Administrator Pruitt, Do you hear us?” Others pointed out that Pruitt was breaking his promise to uphold the law and destroying demand for ethanol.
For his part, well, Pruitt seemed to oblivious to fervor when he said that “there were a few billboards, but they didn’t say I hope you’re having fun.”
No, Mr. Pruitt, 1.6 billion gallons of lost demand and your failure to promulgate a rule making allowing E15 year-round is NOT fun.
Come again soon. Or not.