SIOUX CENTER, Iowa — On a typical day, about 80 tractor trailers full of corn line up to dump their loads at Siouxland Energy Cooperative, the ethanol plant just outside of town. The air throbs with the noise and vibration of this industrial moonshine operation, which distills nature’s harvest into a cleaner-burning fuel.
But today, the warm Iowa sun shines on an almost empty parking lot, and the machinery sits idle.
After two decades, Siouxland this month halted operations following the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to exempt 31 small oil refiners from a federal law requiring them to blend ethanol in their gasoline. The waivers, which the Trump administration has approved almost four times as often as its predecessor, have undercut demand for ethanol and the corn used to make it, farmers said.