February 22, 2017 / 12:32 AM / a year ago

Big Corn courts old foe Big Oil to combat electric car threat

    By Chris Prentice
    SAN DIEGO, Feb 21 (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
    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
    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
    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)
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