Of all the anti-business, anti-jobs, anti-common sense regulations created over the years by the big government bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., none might be more egregious than the Renewable Identification Number (RIN) program required by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Every time gasoline is blended with renewable fuel, the Environmental Protection Agency generates a unique RIN. Oil refiners are required to collect and submit each RIN back to the federal government. When this system was created in 2005, the oil industry was integrated and large oil companies owned the refineries where blending took place.
Twelve years later, this system is not merely convoluted; it’s completely obsolete. Today’s smaller, independent refineries do not blend on site. Big oil companies and gas station chains in turn game the system by building their own blending facilities and stockpiling credits that they sell back to refineries at artificially high prices.
Facing the heavy financial burdens of a severely manipulated market, independent refiners, along with union workers and mom-and-pop gas stations, have asked the Trump administration to change the point of obligation for reporting RINs back to the EPA. Monroe Energy, an independent refiner outside Philadelphia, spends $500,000 a day on RINs. Philadelphia Energy Solutions, another independent northeast refiner, had to seek debt relief after the cost of RINs increased 3,000 percent.
Trump administration officials didn’t just deny the request to shift the reporting obligation from refiners to companies and facilities that blend renewable fuels into gasoline. They took another step in the wrong direction by indicating they might even raise the required levels of ethanol blending.
President Trump has one last chance to unwind this potentially disastrous decision and he needs to do so for one very important reason. The people who will be hit hardest by the outdated aspects of the RFS and the heavily manipulated RIN market are American workers. Refinery jobs are some of the last good-paying jobs left in the American manufacturing sector – the very sector that President Trump made a cornerstone of his economic agenda. Instead of endangering these jobs, the President should be working to protect them as part of his effort to revitalize the manufacturing industry.
President Trump should meet these workers face to face and hear them talk about the threat of losing their jobs to an ineffective, poorly executed government regulation. He should also meet with Republican Senators who have proposed a reasonable compromise that would remove a significant burden from refiners by generating RINs for American-produced renewable fuels that are exported abroad. That would allow the RFS mandate to supply a real overseas market for ethanol rather than a subsidized one here at home.
The RIN system is an outdated, misguided program that badly misses the mark. We shouldn’t allow good-paying working class jobs to disappear by letting it continue to go unaddressed. If the Trump administration fails to change course, or at least agree to a reasonable compromise, the President will undermine one of the central promises of his campaign and his presidency. It’s time to stop the RFS from doing any more damage to American workers.