Lawmakers will once again try to sway Trump in biofuel meeting today

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Senate proponents and critics of ethanol will meet again at the White House today, as the biofuel and petroleum industries fight over the future of corn-based fuel mandates.

Congressional and industry sources said participants include Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, both Iowa Republicans who support biofuel requirements, as well as Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who are looking to roll back the renewable fuel standard.

Aides for Grassley and Ernst confirmed they’ll attend. A refining industry source said it’s not clear what the meeting might produce in terms of a solution; Grassley and Ernst have been firmly against price limits on renewable fuel credits, which have been a centerpiece of Cruz’s approach.

The meeting will be the seventh such gathering there, and President Trump has often participated. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue are expected to attend, as they have in the past, industry groups said.

With the meeting on the agenda, lobbying groups applied additional pressure yesterday. A petroleum industry group called the American Energy Alliance said yesterday it would launch a “six-figure” advertising campaign urging Congress to repeal the renewable fuel standard.

“As the White House holds yet another meeting this week with lawmakers over so-called RFS ‘fixes,’ AEA urges the Trump administration and Congress to swiftly and fully repeal this harmful mandate,” the group said in a news release.

“Only in Washington are additional special interest carveouts considered ‘fixes’ or ‘solutions,'” AEA President Thomas Pyle said in a statement.

“Enough is enough. It’s time for Washington to finally repeal the RFS, get government out of the business of picking winners and losers, and let the free market power our energy economy forward,” he said.

In addition, organizations representing livestock producers, boat owners and chain restaurants — all of which have various reasons to oppose high-ethanol fuel — wrote to Pruitt on April 30, urging the agency not to expand availability of fuel that’s 15 percent ethanol.

Livestock organizations complain that ethanol mandates drive up the price of corn used in feed and spur conversion of grazing lands. Boat owners say ethanol ruins engines. Chain restaurants worry about passing higher food costs on to consumers.

“It would benefit only a small subset of the economy, while negatively impacting many more, including the industries and interests represented here and the American public,” the groups said.

Pro-ethanol groups pushed for approval of year-round availability of higher-ethanol fuel, which some see as a bargaining chip in any talks about changing the RFS.

Growth Energy, representing the ethanol industry, wrote to the president yesterday, saying, “This common-sense change will allow us the opportunity to consistently offer a less expensive, higher performing fuel to our consumers at stations across America.”