President Donald Trump is expected Oct. 9 to announce that he will seek to lift a federal ban on summer sales of higher-ethanol blends of gasoline, known as E-15, a senior White House official told reporters. The move will be coupled with restrictions on biofuel credit trading sought by merchant refiners like Valero Energy Corp and PBF Energy Inc., Reuters reports. Those rules would be aimed at retailers and oil majors accused by merchant refiners of driving up the cost of complying with biofuels blending laws.
It was not clear when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would publish the proposed rule, but the Administration is expected to try and finalize the plan before the 2019 summer driving season.
The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of biofuels like ethanol into the fuel pool annually, or buy credits from those who do.
White House officials told reporters that EPA will propose a rule regarding how Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) are traded. Among the proposed ideas, EPA will consider forcing blenders, retailers and trading houses to sell credits more quickly, Reuters reports. The agency also may only allow obligated parties like refiners to buy credits, may require disclosure of RIN holdings that exceed certain levels and require quarterly reporting.
NATSO Vice President of Government Affairs David Fialkov said the retail fuels community appreciates the Trump Administration's efforts to remove legal impediments to offering fuel consumers the products that they may want to purchase, but said there is serious concern that the Administration is also considering certain so-called 'transparency' proposals in conjunction with allowing E15 to be sold year-round.
"These proposals are solutions in search of problems and should not be pursued because they are unnecessary," Fialkov said. "The RIN market as it exists today is structurally sound; it provides the necessary price discovery and risk management vehicles for parties in the production, distribution, and blending of renewable fuels. The RIN market is what enables biofuels to be consumed in the United States.
"Many of the 'transparency' proposals that the Administration is reportedly considering would undermine renewable fuels markets," Fialkov said. "They were designed by certain refiners that have not sufficiently invested in bringing renewable fuels to market. They are simply the latest iteration of bad ideas that these refining companies continue throwing at the wall, hoping one will eventually stick. Allowing E15 to be sold year-round, though best achieved through the legislative process, would help limit the damage that EPA's back-room small refinery waivers have imposed upon farmers and renewable fuel producers in recent months. It would be unfortunate for this step to be nullified by misguided policies masquerading as transparency measures."
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