Trump meets with oil-state GOP senators on ethanol mandate

Trump meets with oil-state GOP senators on ethanol mandate
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE met Thursday with Republican senators from oil- and refinery-heavy states to hear their complaints about the federal mandate to mix ethanol into the gasoline supply.

Senators said there were no major outcomes from the meeting at the White House, but Trump asked the lawmakers to take the lead themselves on proposals to change the renewable fuel standard in a way that benefits both refineries and corn farmers.

The senators came into the meeting concerned that the Trump administration’s policies too heavily favored the ethanol industry, which pushes to require more ethanol in gasoline, increasing costs for refiners who have to either buy the ethanol or buy renewable identification number credits to comply.

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), last week, made final its biofuel mandate levels for 2018, keeping levels steady and fulfilling the ethanol industry’s wishes.

“It was very good,” Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) said of the meeting with Trump on Thursday.

“He did not pick sides. He strongly encouraged us to sit down with the farmers and work out something so that the farmers win and the refineries win. And that’s what we intend to do,” Kennedy said.

“He offered to come and help negotiate that, just said let him know when he needed us. But he was very clear that he wanted us to resolve this in a way that both sides come out ahead,” he said.

Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordGOP advances rules change to speed up confirmation of Trump nominees GOP senator calls Omar's apology 'entirely appropriate' New battle lines in war over Trump’s judicial picks MORE (R-Okla.) said he didn’t go into the meeting with policy goals, except to ensure that Trump was aware of the concerns of oil- and refinery-heavy states.

“It was just a recognition that this is a complicated issue, and we’re going to have to get everybody together from all sides to be able to put out a proposal to solve it,” Lankford said after the meeting.

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeAllies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump On The Money: Trump to sign border deal, declare emergency to build wall | Senate passes funding bill, House to follow | Dems promise challenge to emergency declaration Trump to sign border deal, declare national emergency MORE (R-Okla.) said in a statement that the meeting was “a positive step forward.”

“The president understands that there are challenges on both sides of this issue, and it is my expectation that we can find a way forward that gets both sides on board. He is very open to that path forward,” Inhofe said.

In total, 11 GOP senators attended the meeting, along with seven high-ranking White House aides, EPA Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA to make formal decision on regulating drinking water contaminant | Utility to close coal plant despite Trump plea | Greens say climate is high on 2020 voters’ minds EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Court tosses challenge to EPA's exclusion of certain scientists from advisory boards MORE, Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueSenate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems Energy Secretary Rick Perry is designated survivor for 2019 State of the Union Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union MORE and Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, the White House said.

"President Trump had a productive meeting today with senators and administration officials. The president confirmed his commitment to RFS and his support for our farmers and energy workers," White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

"He understands there are differing views on this issue, and the administration looks forward to working with all the stakeholders toward a mutually agreeable path forward," he added.

— Jordain Carney contributed to this report that was updated at 5:20 p.m.