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December 7, 2017 1:15 PM, EST

Trump to Discuss Renewable Fuel With Ethanol Critic Ted Cruz

Elizabeth Robertson/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

President Donald Trump will confront the conflict between farm-state and oil-state Republicans over renewable fuel standards as he meets Dec. 7 with Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a leading critic of requirements for ethanol use, and other Republican lawmakers.

Cruz insisted on the meeting to discuss possible changes to the biofuel mandate before he will stop blocking a vote on Trump’s nomination of Iowan Bill Northey to be an undersecretary of agriculture.

A White House official said the president understands the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard to rural America, and also understands the objections of the oil refining sector about “compliance burdens.” Trump will listen to the concerns of the senators with the hope of finding common ground on both sides of this debate, the aide said.

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Key Trump administration officials also are scheduled to attend, including Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, and Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn, according to the official. Eleven senators, including Cruz, will also attend, the aide said.

Pruitt backed off proposals to ease mandates compelling the use of ethanol produced from corn and biodiesel from soybeans in transportation fuel after Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and other farm-state senators stalled at least one Trump EPA nominee.

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Grassley said Dec. 6 that he doesn’t plan to go to the White House meeting and that he’s not concerned. Grassley cited promises Trump made while campaigning ahead of the Iowa presidential caucuses to protect the renewable fuel standard and assurances he said the president had given him and his fellow Iowa senator, Joni Ernst.

“Not if the president keeps doing what he told the voters of Iowa, what he’s told me and Senator Ernst so many times: that he supports ethanol,” he said on conference call with reporters.

“Mr. Northey would not want to be confirmed if the president was going to compromise his views on ethanol, if that was the tradeoff,” Grassley said.

Several of the senators, led by Cruz, had requested the summit to discuss “a pathway forward” on renewable fuels that will save refining jobs and “unleash an American energy renaissance.”