Trump reaffirms ethanol support amid its fight with Icahn

President Donald Trump reiterated his support for American ethanol in a letter, wading into the industry’s battle with independent oil refiners and billionaire Carl Icahn over whether parts of a federal mandate should be changed.

Trump sent the letter during the National Ethanol Conference in San Diego on Tuesday, saying that he regrets not being able to attend. Renewable Fuels Association President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Dinneen read the letter aloud.

The letter came a day before the Environmental Protection Agency closes public comments Wednesday on whether it should grant an Icahn and oil refiner-led push to move the onus on responsibility for adhering to the so-called Renewable Fuel Standard. The law calls for escalating amounts of ethanol and biodiesel. Biofuel industry proponents oppose the change.

Prices for compliance credits have plunged since Trump’s election on speculation that his administration would be receptive to changing the program. Icahn, who owns an 82 percent stake in CVR Energy Inc., is a special adviser to Trump on regulations.

“Rest assured that your President and this administration value the importance of renewable fuels to America’s economy and to our energy independence,” Trump wrote. “As I emphasized throughout my campaign, renewable fuels are essential to America’s energy strategy.”

Icahn, independent refiners and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), a lobbying group, are among those calling for the Trump administration to move compliance to fuel retailers and blenders from refiners.

One of AFPM’s top priorities for the year is urging legislative reform of the biofuel law, Chet Thompson, the group’s president, said in an interview in San Diego on Tuesday. In April, a federal court is scheduled to hear oral arguments that could determine the EPA’s level of authority in administering the biofuel program, Thompson said.

Meanwhile, biofuel interests have been reminding Trump of his campaign pledges to support the industry. In January, during inauguration week, the industry ran ads on cable television that highlighted Trump’s comments on ethanol’s role in the rural economy.

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