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RIN changes causing biofuel industry concernRIN changes causing biofuel industry concern

Export-subsidy RIN could strip value of biofuel blending by flooding market with worthless credits.

Jacqui Fatka

September 29, 2017

3 Min Read
ethanol plant in corn fields
Jim Parkin iStock

Emerging media reports have revealed an effort by oil refiner Valero to encourage the Environmental Protection Agency to attach renewable identification numbers (RINs) to exported biofuels, primarily corn-based ethanol.

Ethanol industry supporters said this action would run counter to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) statute and comes on the “heels of a misguided attempt by Valero, Carl Icahn and other merchant refiners to shift the obligated party under the RFS,” according to a release from Growth Energy, an ethanol industry lobbyist group.

Earlier in the week, EPA published a request for comment on lowering overall biofuel volumes for 2018, and ethanol producer POET said the agency “accidentally posted a document to the Federal Register that shows they made an 11th-hour change to drop the cellulosic/advanced numbers.” EPA also recently published a notice asking for comment on information to further reduce biodiesel volumes and more, with direct reference to oil industry-supplied information.

The action to flood the biofuel credit market – RINs – would stall growth in E15 ethanol fuel blends and biofuel development, POET said.

“The oil industry is pushing EPA down a scary road at the moment. In simple terms, they're looking at policies that would lower the overall volumes used in the United States, decrease the value of biofuels and stall growth of higher-biofuel blended fuel,” POET spokesman Matt Merritt said.

Growth Energy chief executive officer Emily Skor said the group can’t speculate whether the rumor on changing the RINs for export biofuels is true or if it is being given any sort of official consideration. However, she said, “what is absolutely clear is that the idea runs contrary to the intent and plain language of the (RFS) statute, which is specifically constructed to blend more renewable fuel into the U.S. transportation fuel supply in order to give consumers cleaner, more affordable fuel choices at the pump.”

Skor said between these media reports and the cuts proposed to the 2018 renewable volume obligations earlier in the week, Growth Energy remains concerned about EPA’s and the Administration’s commitment to supporting biofuels.

The Federal Register clearly noted that EPA has ruled previously that, “if a gallon of ethanol is produced in the U.S. but consumed outside of the U.S., the RIN associated with that gallon is not valid for RFS compliance purposes, since the RFS program is intended to require a specific volume of renewable fuel to be consumed in the U.S.”

Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council, said, “The White House needs to rein in the EPA before the agency tramples the President’s rural base – and his promises to voters. Valero and CVR want an export-subsidy RIN because it would strip the value of biofuel blending by flooding the market with worthless credits. It’s a handout worth millions for someone like Carl Icahn, but it violates the law and could spark an immediate trade backlash. Farmers and biofuel producers would be hurt most, but the entire fuel supply chain would take a hit, including consumers.”

POET CEO Jeff Broin said approving any of the measures floated this week would be a severe blow to the nation’s public health, air quality and national security and would roll back the growth achieved in homegrown renewable fuels.

“These actions would put millions of dollars into the hands of a few oil companies at the expense of American consumers, family farmers and biofuel producers. President (Donald) Trump has repeatedly committed to protecting the RFS, and we remain hopeful that he will hold his Administration accountable and keep the EPA from following the dangerous path laid out by the oil industry.”

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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