SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A U.S. biofuels lobbying group on Tuesday said it is seeking to work with longtime rival the oil industry to fight the threat to both from subsidies for electric vehicles.
The two industries have been at loggerheads for years as they seek sway with Washington over how much biofuel should be included in gasoline and diesel.
But that enmity is thawing as the growing number of electric cars on the road threatens to cut demand for both renewable and conventional fuels.
The two groups are more aligned on many objectives than they have previously acknowledged, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President Bob Dinneen said on Tuesday, noting electric vehicles as one area where both sides have concerns.
“We want to make sure there’s a level playing field,” Dinneen told reporters on the sidelines of an annual meeting.
The RFA sees opportunity to work on key regulatory and other issues with Big Oil, he added.
“Our objectives will align more times than not,” Dinneen said to two representatives from the petroleum industry on a panel.
Oil advocates agreed that electric vehicles are cause for concern to the transportation fuel sector.
“(We) think we should be working to promote the longevity of the internal combustion engine,” said Chet Thompson, president of American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), in a presentation on Tuesday.
The group welcomes RFA and others pointing out what he described as “inequities” in the support the electric vehicle industry receives, Thompson told Reuters.
Consultants CRU Group say electric car and plug-in hybrid vehicle sales could hit 4.4 million in 2021 and exceed 6 million by 2025, up from 1.1 million last year.
The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama saw electric vehicles as part of the solution to increasing fuel economy.
The comments come as Scott Pruitt takes up his role as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Pruitt was a controversial selection for the role by President Donald Trump, as he sued the agency numerous times when he was the attorney general of oil-producing state Oklahoma.
He is a critic of the Renewable Fuel Standard, through which the agency sets annual requirements for the volumes of ethanol and biodiesel blended with gasoline and diesel.
Trump has promised to reduce regulations to help boost drilling and manufacturing industries.
Liquid fuels like gasoline still account for 99 percent of the U.S. auto market and electric vehicles still represent only a small proportion of vehicles on the roads, said John Eichberger, Executive Director of the Fuels Institute, during a separate panel. But that would change, he said.
Worldwide plug-in vehicles sales are growing rapidly but still account for less than 1 percent of U.S. car and light truck sales, according to data from EV-Volumes.com, which tracks global electric vehicle sales.
Editing by Simon Webb and Bill Rigby