Some farmers, senators and other biofuel advocates are up in arms after "the Environmental Protection Agency, repeatedly citing the concerns of big oil, signaled this week it is considering lowering the amount of ethanol and other renewable fuels required in transportation fuels and heating oil," reports Kerry Murakami, Washington correspondent for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. Such a move would break President Trump's repeated promises to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard.

The standard was created to expand the renewable fuels industry, reduce dependence on imported oil, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Producers of oil-based fuels must include increasing amounts of renewable fuels such as ethanol in their products each year. The volume standards for each year through 2022 were laid out when the law was first expanded in 2007, but the EPA can alter those in order to protect the economy.

"Critics said the policy change would harm agricultural communities by reducing the demand for soy, corn and other crops used in alternative fuels. Indeed, soybean prices dropped the day after EPA’s announcement," Murakami reports.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, sent an open letter to EPA Oct. 5 protesting the proposed changes. "The rule unjustifiably flatlines biomass-based diesel, reduces advanced biofuels and reduces the cellulosic biofuel blending target by about 25 percent," the letter said. "The final rule should address these shortfalls."

"Opponents of the mandate, including the oil industry, object to the law on the basis [that] blended fuels are less efficient than pure fuels, and end up costing consumers more money at the pump and also in higher food prices due to the diversion of corn and other crops used in alternative fuels," Murakami notes.

Farmers, meanwhile, remain nervous about the proposed move.

"The heartland is what put him (Trump) over the top in the election," Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Assocation, told Murakami. "We'd be very disappointed if the first action the administration takes affecting the heartland is this."