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Illinois farmers harvest corn crops. Photo: Seth Perlman / AP

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday largely maintained quotas for a federal ethanol mandate, resisting efforts by oil companies to make bigger changes.

Why it matters, per Axios' Amy Harder: These final quotas show the ethanol lobby and a group of corn-state lawmakers led by Sen. Chuck Grassley remain as powerful as ever even under the unconventional administration of President Trump. EPA did cut the quotas compared to statutory levels, but it discarded more aggressive changes. That mixed bag ultimately led to a range of muted reactions from ethanol backers, including a cautious statement of approval from Grassley, and criticism from oil and refinery interests.

Gritty details: The mandate's overall quota was revised slightly upward, from a proposed 19.24 billion gallons to a final 19.29 billion gallons. The difference comes largely from a slightly increased quota for cellulosic biofuels made from non-corn material compared to the proposal.

Go deeper: Understanding America's ethanol policy; The ethanol empire strikes back

Go deeper

Scoop: Biden weighs retired general Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star general Lloyd Austin as his nominee for Defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 31 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
1 hour ago - Health

WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release"

A medical syringe and vial with fake coronavirus vaccine in front of the World Health Organization (WHO) logo. Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Top scientists at the World Health Organization on Friday called for more detailed information on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca have said the vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses. AstraZeneca has since acknowledged that the smaller dose received by some participants was the result of an error by a contractor, per the New York Times.