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US EPA aims to propose ethanol, RINs reforms by February: spokesman

Washington — The US Environmental Protection Agency aims to formally propose an expansion of higher ethanol blends and trading reforms for renewable fuel credits markets by February, a spokesman said Monday.

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President Donald Trump last week touted in a campaign rally in Iowa that he was "unleashing the power of E15 to fuel our country all year long. Not eight months. All year long."

The sale of E15, or gasoline blended with 15% ethanol, is currently restricted in the summer months because of gasoline volatility rules.

Trump directed EPA to authorize year-round E15 sales and to develop new rules to increase transparency in Renewable Identification Numbers markets.

Spokesman John Konkus said proposing the rule by February would allow the agency to complete the rulemaking process and issue a final rule by the June 1 start of summer driving season, when E15 restrictions would otherwise kick in.

The E15 expansion and RINs trading changes are not expected to have an immediate impact on fuel prices or trade flows as they will have to undergo a long rulemaking process, and oil refiners have already promised to challenge the policy in court.

Among the RINs changes, the White House asked EPA to consider banning anyone but obligated parties from buying separated RINs, requiring public disclosure when RIN holdings exceed specified limits and limiting the time a non-obligated party can hold RINs.

High gasoline prices have become a political liability ahead of the US midterm elections, and Trump's previously unfulfilled promise to approve year-round E15 was threatening to hurt Republicans in farm states.

Trump said approving year-round E15 would lower drivers' costs at the pump. -- Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, newsdesk@spglobal.com