Senators urge White House to keep ethanol requirements as oil industry struggles

Senators urge White House to keep ethanol requirements as oil industry struggles
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Nearly a quarter of the Senate signed a letter sent to the White House on Thursday asking the president to rebuff requests to lift requirements that oil companies add ethanol to their products.

The bipartisan letter, signed by a mix of senators from blue states as well as those from the corn belt, comes as five governors from oil-heavy states have pressured the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to lift its ethanol requirement.

“Waiving the RFS [Renewable Fuel Standard] would cause further harm to the U.S. economy, especially our most vulnerable rural communities. It would also exacerbate the effects experienced by the biofuel sector as a result of COVID-19, causing far-reaching detrimental impacts on employment, farmers, food security, fuel prices and the environment,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter spearheaded by Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstTrump renews culture war, putting GOP on edge The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's job approval erodes among groups that powered his 2016 victory Senate outlook slides for GOP MORE (R-Iowa) and Tina SmithTina Flint SmithTrump officials seek to reassure public about safety of a potential coronavirus vaccine The Hill's Campaign Report: Candidates, lawmakers mark Juneteenth Group of Democratic senators to propose making Juneteenth national holiday MORE (D-Minn.).

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The White House did not immediately return request for comment.

In a letter to the EPA sent earlier in April, the governors from oil-producing states said their refineries should be off the hook from ethanol requirements, arguing the oil industry is in too dire of financial straits to do so. 

“The macroeconomic impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in suppressed international demand for refined products, like motor fuels and diesel,” wrote Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R), Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).

Having to add ethanol “present[s] a clear threat to the industry under such circumstances,” the governors said.

The White House has repeatedly been caught between ethanol farmers and the oil industry, both of which he considers part of his base.

Lately the administration has faced significant pressure from Republican lawmakers to offer some aid to the oil and gas industry. Just days after governors sent their letter to the EPA, oil prices hit their lowest point in history, trading at negative prices.