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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 ErnstOvernight Defense: Pentagon details military construction projects getting .2B restored from wall funds | Biden chooses former commander to lead Navy | Bill seeks to boost visa program for Afghans who helped US Meghan McCain: Harris 'sounded like a moron' discussing immigration Senate bill would add visas, remove hurdles to program for Afghans who helped US MORE (R-Iowa) and Tina SmithTina Flint SmithTop union unveils national town hall strategy to push Biden's jobs plan Bipartisan agreement on need for better information about college costs To reverse the teaching shortage in low-income communities, give educators incentive to stay 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.