The U.S. corn ethanol industry wants the Commerce Department to start a trade battle with China over protectionist tariffs imposed on the renewable fuel and its byproducts.

"China's recent anti-dumping and countervailing tariffs on ethanol and [distillers grain] are significantly injuring U.S. ethanol producers and farmers, and undermining the substantial investments our industries have made in developing a trade relationship with the country," said Bob Dinneen, Renewable Fuels Association CEO, at a hearing at the Commerce Department Thursday.

"Moreover, by unfairly blocking imports of the lowest cost octane source, the most immediate victims are Chinese consumers who have to pay more for gasoline," he said.

Corn ethanol producers have reached a 15-billion gallon limit on biofuel being used to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of biofuels into the nation's gasoline and diesel supplies. Industry officials said the challenge for corn ethanol is to find new markets for the fuel outside of the U.S., with Asia becoming a prime desination for U.S. surplus ethanol.

The Commerce Department hearing was held in response to an executive order signed by President Trump on overcoming U.S. trade deficits.

Dinneen said Trump's commitment to address the ethanol industry's concerns is evident in the nomination of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to be ambassador to China.

Branstad is a noted ethanol supporter as governor of one of the largest corn ethanol producers in the nation. His specific knowledge on ethanol "should help educate Chinese policymakers of the benefit of increased biofuels imports," Dinneen said.