Trump seeks RFS fix for refiners, farmers

Source: By Philip Brasher, AgriPulse • Posted: Friday, December 8, 2017

President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump urged administration officials and oil-state senators in a White House meeting on Thursday to find a solution to refiners’ gripes about the Renewable Fuel Standard that would satisfy them as well as corn growers, the senators say.

The senators, who demanded the meeting in October after the administration made a series of commitments to benefit the ethanol industry, said some unspecified solutions were discussed but nothing was settled other than a commitment to ongoing discussions.

“There is a positive win-win solution that can be reached, and today’s meeting made meaningful steps toward advancing that solution,”  Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said after returning to the Capitol.

Cruz didn’t respond when asked by Agri-Pulse when he would release his hold on the nomination of Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey to be an undersecretary at USDA. Cruz initially blocked the nomination to get a White House meeting on the RFS issue.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was joined at the meeting by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and a number of White House advisers involved in energy and agriculture policy.

At one point, Perdue brought up the Northey nomination and asked when it would be allowed to move forward, said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., one of the senators who attended. Lankford deferred questions to Cruz on prospects for a vote on Northey.

The senators are pressing refiners’ complaints that the cost of buying RFS compliance credits, known as RINs, or Renewable Identification Numbers, to comply with the biofuel usage mandates is threatening to drive some refineries out of business.

During the meeting Trump pushed for a mutually beneficial resolution, senators said.

“The president was listening and saying we need to find a way to protect both the consumer, the corn farmer and the folks at the refinery,” said Lankford.

Another senator who attended the meeting, Bill Cassidy, R-La., said Trump wants “both sides together to find a win-win so that we can say to the farmers, ‘Listen, we’ve got you back,’ but to the people who are employed in the refineries, ‘You’re not going to lose your job’. That’s the goal.”

Eleven senators were scheduled to attend, but at least one, Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., did not.

Cruz and Lankford were among nine senators who signed an Oct. 25 letter to Trump that asked for the RFS meeting and warned that if the administration does not “make adjustments or reforms” to the RFS, “it will result in a loss of jobs around the country.”

In November, EPA turned aside a key demand of the refiners and formally rejected a petition to change the “point of obligation” for RFS compliance to blenders. EPA also finalized usage mandates for 2018 that mandates 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel – typically viewed as corn ethanol – and an additional 500 million more gallons of advanced biofuel over what the agency suggested in a July proposal.

Biofuel groups dismissed the senators’ demands as an effort to get the administration to back off its commitment to the RFS.

Brooke Coleman with the Advanced Biofuels Business Council said oil refiner Valero was behind the effort, and criticized the company for “demanding that the EPA sacrifice America’s rural economy on the same day the refiner is posting massive ‘post quarterly profits.’”