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 TrumpTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill FDA head pledges 'we will not cut corners' on coronavirus vaccine Let our values drive COVID-19 liability protection 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 GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Ballooning Fed balance sheet sparks GOP concerns  The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Lauren Underwood says Americans face economic crisis if Senate fails to act on unemployment benefits extension; US surpasses 4 million cases, 1,000+ deaths for third straight day 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 InhofeTrump's contempt for advice and consent Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled 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 PruittEPA looks to other statutes to expand scope of coming 'secret science' rule EPA ordered to reconsider New York efforts to tame downwind pollution OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten smog standards amid pressure from green groups | Democrats split on Trump plan to use development funds for nuclear projects| Russian mining giant reports another fuel spill in Arctic MORE, Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueTrump's pitch to Maine lobstermen falls flat The ethanol industry is essential — it deserves a boost from Congress US trade policy milks America's dairy farmers 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.