Trump’s administration plans to decline a proposed overhaul of the U.S. biofuels program that would let oil refiners off the hook for complying with the federal ethanol mandate.
The decision is a blow to independent oil refiners like Valero Energy Corp and CVR Energy that have said the requirement costs them hundreds of millions of dollars every year, as well as to billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who holds a majority stake in CVR and vocally supported the change, while serving as President Donald Trump’s special advisor on regulation.
Ultimately, Icahn and his allies were unable to prevail over a strange alliance of major oil companies and biofuels producers, who opposed changing the Renewable Fuel Standard, though for different reasons. They argued that purchasing compliance credits, called Renewable Identification Numbers, squeezed their bottom lines and, in some cases, threatened to put them out of business.
Icahn’s CVR lost $19 million in RIN costs in the second quarter of this year after guessing incorrectly that the administration would make the policy change.
The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to formally deny requests by Valero Energy Corp., Icahn’s CVR Energy Inc., and other oil companies to move the compliance burden of using ethanol and other biofuels away from refiners, moving it to fuel blenders and other entities instead. The EPA plans to formally announce the decision within the next two weeks, the official said.
“President Trump supports the EPA’s decision,” the official added.
Independent refiners had petitioned the EPA repeatedly during the administration of former President Barack Obama against the objections of big ethanol producers that felt the change would undermine the biofuels program by making it too complicated.
Biofuels maker POET LLC applauded the move.
The decision follows through on Trump’s campaign promise to support ethanol and leave the mandate intact.
Biofuels producers believed that if EPA had shifted the “point of obligation” away from refiners, as Icahn and other companies requested, it would cause years of upheaval. The American Petroleum Institute, which represents much of the oil industry, including the oil majors, has opposed the change, saying it would be a distraction from the kind of overhaul or full-on repeal the program needs.
“Changes to the point of obligation would have created market confusion raised fuel prices and removed incentives for offering cleaner-burning biofuel blends to consumers across the country,” said Rob Walther, the manufacturer’s vice president of federal advocacy.
“This is not only a huge win for the biofuels industry, but also for public health, the environment and our economy.”
Meanwhile, CVR Energy fell 3% to $19 a share. Valero Energy Corp., the largest independent U.S. oil refiner, was nearly unchanged at $68.47.
RINs tracking 2017 ethanol consumption were unchanged at 86.5 cents apiece. Prices have nearly tripled since they traded at 30 cents at the end of February. Biodiesel RINs rose 1.9% to $1.07 apiece. Prices for that variety have increased 53% since Friday.
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