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Grassley Doubts EPA Chief Can Thread Needle Between Biofuels And Oil Industry

Flickr / National Renewable Energy Lab
REG biodiesel plant in Mason City, Iowa.

Sen. Chuck Grassley had lunch Monday with the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, on the same day he and a group of bipartisan senators sent Pruitt a letter urging him to not reduce the amount of biodiesel in the nation’s fuel supply for 2018.

The Renewable Fuel Standard is a mandate from the federal government the requires oil refiners or importers of refined oil to blend a certain volume of renewable fuels like biodiesel and ethanol into gasoline.

RFS support cuts across party lines because it’s major economic driver for agricultural states. The letter to Pruitt states that cutting back on the blend level hurts rural America.

Grassley adds that rolling this back not only goes against what Congress intended, but also breaks a campaign promise from President Trump.

"It’s Pruitt’s duty to follow the law and make good on President Trump’s pledge to support the industry," he says.

Pruitt has ties to the oil and gas industry, which opposes this mandate in part because the quota reduces oil’s market share. That means Pruitt is now in a tight spot between old friends and his new boss. 

"I think that he feels that he’s going to be able to thread a needle that doesn’t harm RFS and still helps the refineries that are complaining about how the RFS is hurting them," Grassley explains. "I said, 'If you’re able to do that, you’re a miracle maker.'"

Iowa is second biggest producer of biodiesel by gallons nationwide. Texas comes in first, while Missouri and Illinois rank third and fourth respectively. 

The EPA says it will make its final decision on this by November 30.