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Trump says E15 expansion will curb US oil import dependence

Highlights

EPA approved summer E15 sales in late May

Refiners file lawsuit challenging year-round access

Washington — The approval of year-round access to E15 fuel will curb US dependence on imported oil by as much as 250 million barrels/year, US President Donald Trump said Tuesday.

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"Quite simply it means more energy, and what can be wrong with that? And it's very good energy," Trump said in televised comments after touring the Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy plant in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

In late May, the Environmental Protection Agency lifted the summertime ban on E15, or gasoline blended with 15% ethanol, fulfilling a promise Trump made in October.

S&P Global Platts assessed D6 RINs for 2019 compliance at 15 cents/RIN Tuesday and D6 RINs for 2018 compliance at 11 cents/RIN, both up 0.25 cent/RIN.

RINs are tradable credits EPA issues to track production and use of alternative transportation fuels. For corn-based ethanol, one gallon of ethanol yields one RIN.

Allowing summer sales of E15 will expand the market for biofuels, although fuel stations have been waiting for final approval before adding pumps and storage tanks. It remains to be seen if EPA's action will give stations enough certainty to add expensive new infrastructure or if they will continue to hold off while lawsuits loom.

On Monday, refiner trade group American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers challenged EPA's approval at the US District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit.

"We fully expect the court's ruling to align with what the EPA and Congress have each previously concluded: the plain language of the Clean Air Act does not authorize an RVP waiver expansion beyond E10," AFPM President Chet Thompson said in a statement. "Nothing has changed -- a waiver for E15 is unlawful, plain and simple."

Biofuel trade group Growth Energy said the agency has "clear authority to implement the law through appropriate regulations."

"A move toward cleaner fuels is exactly what Congress intended under the Clean Air Act," said Joe Kakesh, Growth Energy's general counsel.

Growth Energy estimates year-round E15 will increase ethanol demand by 1.3 billion gallons, or about 2% annually, within five years.

ClearView Energy Partners said it sees "limited economic incentive for widespread E15 sales growth, even with the RVP waiver in place."

S&P Global Platts Analytics expects E15 to expand in three phases: higher sales at stations that already sell E15; new stations adding tanks and pumps for the first time; and eventually new markets opening in the 20 or so states that currently do not allow E15, including California and New York.

-- Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Richard Rubin, newsdesk@spglobal.com