February 21, 2017 / 11:33 PM / 10 months ago

Trump seeks to quell ethanol industry worry as Pruitt enters EPA

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Tuesday assured ethanol industry advocates of their importance in U.S. energy strategy in an apparent bid to quell concerns over potential changes to policies that mandate the use of such renewable fuels.

The comments came as Scott Pruitt took over as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and after Trump picked Carl Icahn as a senior advisor. Both men in the past have criticized the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires biofuels like ethanol to be blended into gasoline.

In a letter to attendees of an ethanol conference in San Diego, Trump said his administration was working to tackle the “regulatory burden” on their industry. Though the letter offered no detail on policy plans, Trump sought to ease worry over the extent of his commitment to the sector.

“Rest assured that your President and this Administration value the importance of renewable fuels to America’s economy and to our energy independence,” he said in a letter.

The RFS pits two of Trump’s support bases against each other: Big Oil and Big Corn. The farming sector has lobbied hard for the maximum biofuel volumes laid out in the law to be blended into gasoline motor fuels, while the oil industry argues that the program creates additional costs.

During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt said he would support the RFS but he remained open to tweaking it.

Prior to joining the Trump administration, Icahn said the system of buying and selling biofuel blending credits that underpins the RFS was bankrupting smaller oil refiners.

The most recent plan from Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama for biofuels use has been caught up in an administrative review by the new administration and EPA is currently taking public comments on whether or not it should consider changing the RFS as some oil refiners have requested.

Reporting by Chris Prentice; Editing by Andrew Hay

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