Trump plans to meet oil sector reps on biofuel

(Reuters) — United States President Donald Trump has agreed to meet with representatives of the oil refining industry and their legislative backers to discuss the nation’s biofuels program, according to two sources briefed on the matter.

The White House meeting could set the stage for negotiations over possible legislation to overhaul the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, a 2005 law that requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of biofuels into the nation’s gasoline each year, the sources said, asking not to be named.

While the existing regulations have been a boon to the Midwest corn belt, refining companies oppose it because it cuts into their petroleum-based fuel market share, and because they say the blending requirement costs them hundreds of millions of dollars.

Lawmakers representing both industries have in recent months threatened to block administration nominations over the White House’s handling of the issue, including most recently Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who said he will hold up the nomination of Bill Northey to a federal agriculture post until he gets a meeting with Trump on biofuels.

A White House official declined to comment.

Cruz and eight other senators from states with oil refineries, including Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, had requested the meeting with Trump and biofuel representatives in an October letter to discuss the regulation to “discuss a pathway forward toward a mutually agreeable solution.”

It is unlikely Trump would be able to move to reform the biofuels program without buy-in from the corn coalition.

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a vocal biofuels backer, has said that such a meeting would be a “waste of time.”

His office declined to comment on whether Grassley would attend.

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