Cap on ethanol RINs would reduce biodiesel market significantly

By The National Biodiesel Board | March 09, 2018

A new analysis by the National Biodiesel Board and the World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services found that capping the price of conventional biofuels’ renewable identification numbers (RINs) will significantly harm the production of biodiesel and related industries. Although some believe that limiting the price of RINs for the conventional biofuels market won’t harm biomass-based diesel volumes, the analysis made it clear that a price cap on conventional ethanol RINs would result in lower volumes of biomass-based diesel produced and used in the U.S.

“Capping the price of conventional ethanol RINs would devastate the biodiesel industry—swiftly and significantly—reducing the amount of volumes produced and people employed,” said Kurt Kovarik, NBB vice president of federal affairs. “Satisfying the whims of fewer than five refiners isn’t worth the resulting harm to millions of workers in U.S. agriculture and livestock production, as well as American consumers. President Trump can sniff out a good deal from a bogus one, and we are hopeful that he will stick with his campaign promise and reject a cap on RIN prices.”

The analysis found that capping the price of conventional ethanol RINs would lead to: 

-A reduction of up to 300 million gallons in biomass-based diesel volumes each year—in part, because these volumes would no longer be utilized for compliance with the conventional biofuels requirements; 

-$185 million more in feed costs for livestock producers—likely leading to an increase in food costs for consumers; and 

-16 cents less per bushel of soybeans. 

The analysis utilized WAEES’s partial equilibrium model, which can be broken down into crops, livestock and biofuels components encompassing feed grains, food grains, cotton, sugar, oilseeds, ethanol, biodiesel, beef, pork and poultry. Important to understanding the results of the analysis, the model made conservative assumptions, including an assumption that the biodiesel tax credit would be reinstated. If the credit isn’t reinstated, we should expect to see even greater harm and lower volumes produced domestically. 

The analysis showed that soybean producers would receive approximately 16 cents less per bushel in 2020 due to reduced demand for their products. On the flip side, the price of soybean meal—i.e., the protein, not the oil for biodiesel production—will increase more than $5 per short ton. As a result, livestock producers are expected to pay roughly $185 million more in feed costs due to a cap on RINs. A similar impact can be expected for other oilseed meals, such as canola. These increased costs may negatively impact consumer food costs. 

“This analysis clearly demonstrates the severe harm to the biodiesel market caused by capping conventional ethanol RIN prices,” Kovarik said. “The impacts of a RIN cap also extend far beyond energy markets—harming livestock and oilseed producers, and raising the cost of food for consumers.”

The Renewable Fuel Standard—a bipartisan policy passed in 2005 and signed into law by President George W. Bush—requires certain volumes of renewable fuels to be used in transportation fuel, heating oil or jet fuel. Expanded in 2007, the law requires increasing volumes of advanced biofuels, such as biomass-based diesel, with each year. Advanced biofuels are fuels designated by the U.S. EPA for meeting the threshold of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent, as compared to petroleum. (Biodiesel has significant lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions reductions compared to petroleum diesel—anywhere from 57 to 122 percent.) Biomass-based diesel and cellulosic biofuels are fuels nested within the advanced biofuels category, and can quality both as their nested fuel type and as an advanced biofuel. Advanced biofuels can qualify for RINs for their advanced biofuel category, as well as conventional biofuels (which has a lower threshold of greenhouse gas emissions reductions). The interconnected nature of the program and how RINs can qualify for multiple categories is one reason that capping one type of RINs impacts other fuels.

 
 
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