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Trump again promises year-round E15, but gives no deadline amid shutdown

Washington — US President Donald Trump said Monday he remains committed to approving year-round E15 sales, but he did not acknowledge that the window for making the regulatory change in time for the 2019 summer driving season is shrinking as the partial government shutdown drags on.

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The ethanol industry is closely watching whether the prolonged shutdown causes the Environmental Protection Agency to miss its target for approving year-round E15, or gasoline blended with 15% ethanol, before the summer driving season starts in June.

EPA had planned to propose the regulatory change in February and make it final in May, a relatively quick turnaround.

"We're ensuring that ethanol remains a vital part of America's energy future with E15," Trump told the American Farm Bureau Federation in New Orleans. "We're making it available year-round, all 12 months. That was a big, big difference for the farmers."

An EPA spokesman said last week that the agency would still complete the rule before the summer driving season.

"This is a priority for both President Trump and Acting Administrator Wheeler," spokesman Michael Abboud said. "The ongoing partial shutdown will not impede EPA's ability to keep to our deadline."

The E15 change and other issues surrounding the Renewable Fuel Standard debate will get a high-profile airing Wednesday during EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler's confirmation hearing in the Senate.

Senators are expected to press Wheeler on his approach to granting small refineries waivers to the biofuel mandate. An escalation of the waivers by his predecessor, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, caused Renewable Identification Number prices to fall sharply last year.

S&P Global Platts assessed D6 ethanol RINs for 2018 compliance at 14.5 cents/RIN Friday. They started 2018 at 70.5 cents/RIN.

RINs are tradable credits EPA issues to track production and use of alternative transportation fuels. For corn-based ethanol, one gallon of ethanol yields one RIN. -- Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com