Grassley not worried about Trump’s meeting with Cruz, ethanol opponents

Source: By Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register • Posted: Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Sen. Chuck Grassley expects President Trump will continue to support ethanol, even though the president is meeting with renewable fuel opponents about the federal mandate this week.

Grassley said Tuesday he’s not concerned about Trump’s meeting with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, other oil-state senators and petroleum representatives so long as “the president keeps doing what he’s told the voters of Iowa, me and Sen. (Joni) Ernst so many times — that he supports ethanol.”

The Iowa senator dismissed the idea that Trump could strike a deal weakening his commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard in exchange for Cruz releasing his hold on Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey’s confirmation to a top U.S. Department of Agriculture post.

“Mr. Northey wouldn’t want to be confirmed if the president was going to compromise his views on ethanol — if that was the trade-off,” Grassley said.

The Renewable Fuel Standard sets the amount of ethanol and biodiesel that must be blended in the nation’s fuel supply.

A Northey spokesman Tuesday said the Spirit Lake farmer has no interest in anything that would weaken the renewable fuel mandate. “He’s a strong supporter of the RFS,” said Dustin Vande Hoef.

Grassley said he hadn’t been invited to the Trump-Cruz meeting, which Reuters and others say “could set the stage for negotiations over possible legislation to overhaul the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

“I doubt they’d want me around,” Grassley said.

The Iowa Republican said Trump is meeting with Cruz and other congressional leaders, just as he would with him or other lawmakers.

Grassley said Congress would need to take legislative action to make changes to the biofuels mandate.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency said oil companies need to blend 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol and 2.1 billion gallons of biodiesel into the fuel supply next year.

The mandate is designed to reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign oil imports.

Monte Shaw, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association executive director, said ethanol opponents have “tried for 10 years to mess with the RFS through Congress and gotten nowhere.”

“This is par for the course,” Shaw said. “There are people in the White House who aren’t enamored with the RFS, but luckily, one of them isn’t named Donald Trump.”

Shaw said he hoped that Cruz would lift his hold on Northey’s confirmation, following his meeting with the president. “Assuming he’s a man of his word, there should be one positive outcome,” he said.

Cruz and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, have put a hold on Northey’s confirmation.

Cruz wrote to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds last month, saying he had blocked Northey’s confirmation in an attempt to bring stakeholders from corn-growing states like Iowa to sit down with officials from the oil-refining industry to discuss RFS changes.

A Flake spokesman said he has no plans to lift his hold on Northey’s nomination. Cruz’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott petitioned the EPA on Friday for a waiver from meeting the federal mandate, saying it detrimentally impacted the state’s refineries.