Friday, March 27, 2015

'We fixed it': How Brady, Biden helped Philly-area refiners beat ethanol rules

Says Reuters

'We fixed it': How Brady, Biden helped Philly-area refiners beat ethanol rules

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady.
U.S. Rep. Bob Brady.

'Six months ago the U.S. oil industry scored a surprise win against farm groups when the Obama administration proposed slashing the amount of ethanol refiners must blend into gasoline, a move that could save them billions of dollars," says Reuters here.

"The clash has been portrayed as a battle between 'Big Oil' and 'Big Corn,' two powerful and deep-pocketed lobbies. But a Reuters review of public records and interviews with lawmakers, lobbyists and executives reveals [that] some of the most effective players in the fight weren't traditional oil majors but rather the Carlyle Group [one of Pa.'s biggest employers] and Delta Air Lines, owners of two Philadelphia-area [oil] refiners," along with PBF Energy, which runs additional Philly-area refineries at nearby Delaware City, Del. and Paulsboro, NJ.

Philadelphia nearly lost its refineries when Sunoco and other old-line oil importers and refiners, after years of falling investment, decided after 2010 that they were no longer profitable to operate. But new owners with more energy have raised money -- some of it from taxpayers, in the case of the Philadelphia and Delaware City plants -- for equipment upgrades, just as North American fuel supplies have come online. They also appear to be savvy operators in Washington: 

n the Obama White House, the Philly oilmen's "pitch was familiar: a year earlier, many of the same players had worked [together] to rescue Philadelphia refineries from closure, saving jobs and keeping a lid on East Coast gas prices. In one exchange last July, Philadelphia Congressman Robert Brady (D-Phila.) contacted Vice President Joe Biden [a former U.S. Senator from Delaware] on behalf of Carlyle, which bought two struggling refineries in his district in 2012. They had been on the brink of closure due to lower margins then; now they were threatened by biofuel mandates, whose cost eclipses the salaries of all refinery workers combined.

"I talked to the vice president and I told him what the issue was, and he said, 'we've got to try to fix that,'" Brady told Reuters. "And we fixed it." ... Carlyle and Delta acknowledged contacting lawmakers and regulators but declined to comment on specific meetings... n industry with few open allies in Washington was able to prevail - at least temporarily - over the once-invincible farm lobby, which has seen its sway diminish."

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
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