A White House summit to determine the future of the United States' renewable fuel standard ended without an agreement Tuesday as senators clashed over how changes to the program would affect their constituents.
A typical ethanol plant in West Burlington, Iowa (Big River Resources, LLC). (Photo by Steven Vaughn
"Just left WH mtg on the RFS," Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, tweeted as he left the hour-long session. "Same discussion again. No deal made."
Grassley, a Republican who represents a largely agricultural state, said the sticking point is a proposed cap on renewable fuel credits that the Trump administration seems to favor.
Championed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the plan would place a cap of 10 cents on each renewable fuel credit -- a smidgen of their current value.
Cruz, who represents a state dominated by the oil and gas industry, says imposing a cap in necessary to help the nation's refiners better cope with the nation's longstanding policies supporting the use of biofuels.
Later on Tuesday Grassley tweeted a link to an article from Ethanol Producer Magazine, which reported on a new study by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.
That study found that nearly 50,000 Iowa jobs are tied to biofuels production. The association said Cruz's efforts to convince the White House "to undermine the RFS would jeopardize these jobs and thousands of Iowa farm families already struggling with low commodity prices."
Cruz countered with a pair of tweets of his own, one linking to a Dallas Morning News story headlined "At bankrupt Philadelphia refinery, Ted Cruz blasts ethanol mandate, champions blue collar workers"; the other linked to a Washington Examiner story headlined "Ted Cruz pits refinery workers against Wall Street to fix 'broken' ethanol mandate."
"This is about jobs. Jobs that provide for your families, and jobs that provide for your kids," Cruz said. "The working men and women in this country should have a federal government that is standing with you rather than fighting against you."
Introduced in the early 2000s, the renewable fuel standard requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of biofuels into the U.S. fuel supply every year.
Alternatively, they can purchase credits, called Renewable Identification Numbers, from other companies that do the blending instead.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue have signaled they like the general approach favored by Cruz, but would massage the numbers in a bid to reduce tensions between corn producers and refiners.
Pruitt and Perdue have proposed creating a year-round RIN waiver that would allow E15 -- gasoline that contains 15 percent ethanol -- to be sold year-round; the creation of credits for exported ethanol; and safeguards to tamp down on Wall Street speculation on the credits.
But in his tweet Grassley contended that the renewable fuel standard, as it stands today, would be "destroyed by RIN cap/waiver."
"Not “win win” promised Would destroy ethanol demand making benefits of RVP useless," he said.
Despite the sour note sounded by the senator, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump felt Tuesday's meeting with Grassley, Cruz, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, had been productive.
Sanders went on to say that during the meeting Trump made clear his commitment to the renewable fuel standard and his support for both farmers and energy workers.
“He understands there are differing views on this issue, and looks forward to continuing the discussion,” Sanders said.
White House officials now reportedly plan to consult with top ethanol and oil industry leaders on Thursday.
A typical ethanol plant in West Burlington, Iowa (Big River Resources, LLC). (Photo by Steven Vaughn via Wikipedia Commons)