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The cost of RINs has not shown up in the price consumers pay at the pump, and it likely never will. While many of the refiners have threatened to pass the cost along, they are prevented by competitive pressure. Other refiners are not making consumers pay, instead absorbing the costs in their bottom lines. Further, the refiners who blend biofuels could pass their profits from RIN trading to consumers — along with the lower cost of the renewable fuels.
It’s possible that Congress never imagined that some refiners would try to block renewable fuels from the market at any cost. Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller once battled Thomas Edison to try to stop electricity from becoming widely available, because it competed with his kerosene lamp business. Now we see some oil refiners trying to keep renewable fuels out of the market in the same anti-competitive way.
The RFS is not broken. It is a success story that is fostering biotech innovation, with new cellulosic biofuels facilities being built in all regions of the United States. But you would never know this to hear Big Oil tell it.
Some in Congress have begun contemplating legislative changes to the RFS to mollify the refining lobby. But there is no need. The EPA was granted a great deal of flexibility by Congress to administer the RFS program and make adjustments as needed. Further, legislative changes would give Congress only a brief respite from the refiners’ relentless campaign to eliminate this effective program.
But even technical tweaks would unnecessarily bring added uncertainty to the rule-making process, harming all participants in the program and chilling further investment in advanced and cellulosic biofuels, while doing nothing for consumers.
Brent Erickson is executive vice president, Industrial & Environmental Section, of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.