Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt and Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue met with President Trump on Monday and presented a package of potential changes to the Renewable Fuels Standard. Politico reports the proposal is aimed at ending a squabble between corn farmers and oil refining firms over the program. The proposals include capping the price paid for biofuels credits, which are called Renewable Identification Numbers, as well as a year-round waiver for the sale of E-15 ethanol blends. Other ideas include creating credits for exported ethanol, as well as a transparency measure intended to cut Wall Street investors out of trading in the program.
All of these changes would be executed administratively, rather than through legislation. The pitch comes a day ahead of a meeting that Trump is scheduled to host with corn-state and oil-patch lawmakers. The guest list includes Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, all of whom are Republicans. Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn will also be there.
The National Farmers Union and five other prominent groups are urging President Trump to avoid changes that would weaken the RFS. The farm groups sent the letter on how important a strong RFS is to rural America, which is coping with a severely depressed farm economy. NFU President Roger Johnson says, “We wanted to remind the president of the promises he made to farmers and rural communities as he meets with senior administration officials and lawmakers”.
The letter also points out that as the rural economy continues to struggle, most oil refiners are experiencing an economic boom, as well as significant gains from recent tax changes. Recent claims from an east coast refiner that the RFS caused it to file for bankruptcy brought about the meeting on Tuesday. The letter from the farm groups points out that the bankruptcy is “the hallmark of poor business decisions and a willingness to put investor returns ahead of refinery jobs.”