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 TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit 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 LankfordSenate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump Congress reaches deal on disaster aid Bipartisan group of senators introduce legislation designed to strengthen cybersecurity of voting systems 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 InhofeOvernight Defense: Details on Senate's 0B defense bill | Bill rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps | Backfills money for border wall | Defense chief says more troops could head to Mideast Senate panel rejects Trump plan to skirt budget caps, advances defense bill that backfills wall money Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences 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 PruittOn The Money: Conservative blocks disaster relief bill | Trade high on agenda as Trump heads to Japan | Boeing reportedly faces SEC probe over 737 Max | Study finds CEO pay rising twice as fast as worker pay Overnight Energy: Democrats push EPA to collect 4K in 'excessive' Pruitt travel expenses | Greens angered over new rules for rocket fuel chemical | Inslee to join youth climate strikers in Las Vegas Democrats push EPA to collect 4K from Pruitt for 'excessive airfare expenses' MORE, Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueOn The Money: Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump | Trump to offer B aid package for farmers | House votes to boost retirement savings | Study says new tariffs to double costs for consumers Trump administration announces B aid package for farmers hurt by trade war with China USDA relocates expert economists, researchers who challenge Trump policies: report 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.