Mike Pence talks about finding a ‘win-win’ for ethanol mandate, but cautiously

Source: By John Siciliano, Washington Examiner • Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2018

Vice President Mike Pence, on a tour through the upper Midwest to tout the Republican tax cuts, is discussing ideas on how to fix the Renewable Fuel Standard’s ethanol mandate, but it isn’t a major part of his message to large corn-growing states.

“Got to visit with VP Pence today,” tweeted Kevin Skunes, the president of the National Corn Growers Association, after meeting Pence briefly in North Dakota. “We talked Renewable Fuel Standard!”

Pence told him the administration is “looking for a ‘win-win’ solution,” Skunes continued. “I asked him if we could meet to talk about what that solution looks like! He said let’s talk!”

Pence’s office confirmed that the two did meet “but was part of a larger event. Not a separate meeting about the RFS.”

A spokesman for Skunes said, “There is really nothing more to share at this point.”

“He just pointed out to VP Pence that ethanol is important to corn farmers and they discussed a possible meeting,” said Mark Lambert, spokesman for the corn growers.

Pence gave a speech in Minneapolis Wednesday, but didn’t raise either ethanol or the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Instead, Pence touted Trump’s efforts to move ahead with the Keystone XL oil pipeline, repeal President Barack Obama-era climate rules, and extinguish U.S. participation in the “job killing” Paris climate change accord. Minnesota is a large ethanol producer and corn state.

Nevertheless, Pence’s use of the term “win-win” for the ethanol mandate is the same as that of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who wants Trump to waive the requirement for refiners to buy expensive ethanol credits to comply with the ethanol mandate. The ethanol industry, Skunes’ group, and supporters on Capitol Hill loathe the idea, because it would crush demand.

The plan is being pushed by Cruz and others as a way stave off job losses that they argue stem from requiring merchant refiners to buy expensive ethanol credits to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s ethanol mandate.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters last week that the Cruz plan is probably not going anywhere. He said lawmakers are urging the White House to back off and let them handle the ethanol overhaul.

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., and chairman of the Energy and Commerce environmental subcommittee, appears to be one of those voices.

“Congressman Shimkus believes administrative changes to the RFS at this point would be counterproductive to any legislative effort being discussed to reform the program,” Jordan Haverly, spokesman and policy adviser to Shimkus, told John.

Shimkus is helping to craft legislation to overhaul the RFS, which is seen as a companion to a bill being drafted in the Senate by Republican Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas.