By: Chris White
One of the oil industry’s largest trade organizations is criticizing the Trump administration for caving on biofuel mandate reforms after receiving push-back from Republican lawmakers.
EPA Chief Scott Pruitt is catching flak for assuring corn-state lawmakers earlier this month that he won’t tinker with a mandate requiring refineries to blend biofuels into the U.S. gasoline supply. Pruitt was considering reforming the mandate at the behest of the oil industry, but backed off after Republican lawmakers from corn states complained.
“It’s frankly been very embarrassing to watch the administration bend its knee to its will to king corn and these handful of senators,” Chet Thompson, president and CEO of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, told reporters Friday. Pruitt sent a letter to Republican Iowa senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley telling them that he does not plan on changing the program.
Grassley said in a statement earlier this month that he was willing to hold up the nominations of EPA nominee Michael Dourson, who was picked to run the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and Bill Wehrum, a former EPA official that Trump tabbed to run the agency’s air office.
President Donald Trump, like most of his Republican opponents, campaigned during the presidential election on maintaining the standard as a sop to Iowa farmers dependent on the high-priced corn-based fuel. Recent reports indicated Pruitt was hell-bent on using biofuel imports to drive down the price of ethanol.
Pruitt wants to find ways to drive down RIN prices to help the fossil fuel industry, according to oil industry sources who have spoken with the EPA. “The reason he wants to do that, he’s going to screw them on point of obligation. He’s willing to [push] any crazy idea that accomplishes that goal in the short term.”
The agency wants to allow exports of ethanol to count toward the total biofuel volume obligations for the year, a policy that would likely drive down prices. Republicans hold an 11-10 majority on the Environment and Public Works Committee, which would allow only one GOP defection to defeat Wehrum and Dourson’s nominations.
Thompson, whose group represents the nation’s oil refiners, believes the oil industry will hold the Trump administration accountable for pulling the proverbial rug out from underneath them. “This all happened quickly and I do think it took people a bit by surprise,” he said.