Trump EPA pick says backs biofuels program, but open to tweaks

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<span class="articleLocation”>Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt,
President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental
Protection Agency, said on Wednesday he would honor the intent
of the U.S. biofuels program, but remained open to tweaking it.

The Renewable Fuel Standard requires the EPA set annual
quotas for the use of ethanol and biodiesel in transportation
fuels. More than a decade old, the standard is fiercely defended
by the U.S. corn industry that provides most of the ethanol, but
it has been a source of frustration for oil refiners. They say
the goals are unrealistic without an overhaul in automobiles and
infrastructure, and are calling for changes.

Pruitt said during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday
that he was committed to Congress’ plan, laid out in 2007, to
annually increase the amount of ethanol and other renewables
blended with petroleum fuels. He said the waivers that EPA has
already used to set requirements below those targets to
accommodate market conditions should be used “judiciously”.

He explained his view that the EPA should not use those
waivers to “undermine commitments” from Congress but that they
are needed in some cases, including when there is
lower-than-expected fuel demand.

The comments quelled some concerns from within the industry
over the nominee, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general had
described the program as “flawed” and “unworkable.”

Renewable Fuels Association Chief Executive Officer and
President Bob Dinneen described Pruitt’s comments as “heartening” in a statement.

While generally supportive of program, Pruitt said it was
too soon to say whether it needed to be altered.

Oil refiners including HollyFrontier Corp and Delta
Air Lines Inc’s Monroe Energy have requested that the
responsibility of blending renewables like ethanol into their
fuel be shifted from them to companies further down the supply

The EPA moved to deny the request, but is seeking public
comment on the decision.

When asked about the idea, Pruitt said he did not want to “pre-judge” the outcome of the comment period.

Trump has separately tapped billionaire and RFS critic Carl
Icahn as a special advisor on regulations, raising industry
speculation that the incoming administration will be more likely
to consider the change.

Pruitt is one of several of Trump’s senior Cabinet picks to
face Senate hearings since last week.

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