President Trump meets with a group of 11 Republican senators on Thursday to discuss ways to fix the nation's ethanol mandate to address oil refiners' concerns that the program "isn't working as intended," according to the White House.
"President Trump will meet with senators today to discuss his commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard and how to effectively address the program's impact on independent refiners," said White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters.
The senators meeting with Trump are being led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. The rest of the group includes Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, John Cornyn of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Jim Lankford of Oklahoma, John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
The Environmental Protection Agency's RFS program requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of ethanol and other biofuels into the nation's diesel and gasoline supply.
The refiners want the administration to free them from the high cost of complying with the RFS by requiring them to purchase Renewable Identification Number credits, which are subject to volatility and price spikes. The rising cost of RINs is forcing some refiners to consider layoffs, and the industry wants the administration to endorse a policy that addresses those costs.
But Trump also supports the RFS because of its positive impact in rural parts of the nation like Iowa, one of the nation's largest corn ethanol producers.
"The president understands the importance of the RFS to rural America," Walters explained. "He is also aware that workers in the refining sector believe the program isn't working as intended and should be improved to reduce their compliance burdens."
The meeting comes after the administration last week enacted new renewable fuel targets for 2018 at higher levels than oil refiners had wanted, while formally rejecting a scheme to remove refiners from the RFS program altogether.
Trump plans to listen to the group of senators who represent states with high numbers of refinery workers, like Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
Walters said that Trump hopes to find "common ground on both sides of this debate in order to achieve energy independence, provide affordable energy for consumers, create jobs and economic opportunity."
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette will also join the president, along with White House chief of staff John Kelly and six top White House advisers.