The governors of five U.S. states have asked the Trump administration for a nationwide waiver exempting the oil-refining industry from the nation’s biofuel laws to help it survive a demand meltdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak, according to letters seen by Reuters.
The request places Republican President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election in November, in a tough spot between the oil and agriculture industries, two important constituencies. They are being particularly hard-hit by the global pandemic as it decimates energy consumption, breaks transport supply chains and makes labor harder to come by.
Under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, oil refiners are required to blend billions of gallons of biofuels like corn-based ethanol into the country’s fuel each year or buy credits from those that do, a policy that helps farmers but which the oil industry says costs it a fortune.
“As our country comes to grips with this national emergency, continuing to implement the current (biofuel requirements) imposes an added obligation that would ‘severely’ harm the sector, and consequently harm the economy of the States and the Nation,” according to one of the letters, signed by the governors of Texas, Wyoming, Utah and Oklahoma and addressed to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler. The letter was dated on Wednesday.
Louisiana also made such a request, according to a separate letter seen by Reuters and addressed April 7.
An EPA official did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the request.