Some ethanol plants cut out middleman to pass savings to drivers

By Holly Jessen | May 29, 2013

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association is pointing to examples of ethanol plants that sell E85 directly to retailers. Contrary to the claims of the petroleum industry renewable identification numbers (RINs) are being used to lower fuel prices for consumers, the IRFA said.

“Big Oil consistently touts the line that buying RINs equates to higher gas prices, but reality proves otherwise,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “The blender – the seller of the RIN – can and should pass the value of the RIN through to consumers.  In fact, Iowa ethanol plants are doing just that.  By offering higher blends like E85 directly to retailers, Iowa ethanol plants are passing along the RIN savings and hoping that retailers will reflect the lower wholesale prices at the pump.”

IRFA named two ethanol plants that offer E85 directly to retailers, Siouxland Energy and Livestock Cooperative, a 60 MMgy ethanol plant in Sioux Center, Iowa, and Absolute Energy, a 115 MMgy ethanol plant near the Iowa-Minnesota border. The two facilities announced implementation of the direct-to-retailers programs on May 24 and May 29.

Recent OPIS prices for E85 at Iowa terminals were $2.69 a gallon, IRFA pointed out, while at the same time SELC listed its E85 at $2.17 a gallon. “Here at Siouxland Energy, we’re passing on the RIN savings to the consumer, and it’s making for some very attractive E85 prices,” said Tom Miller, SELC commodity manager. “I think ethanol plants are growing tired of watching a middleman pocket the RIN value to the detriment of consumers. Our plant wants consumers to understand the real value of homegrown ethanol, so we’ve cut out the middleman and we’re selling E85 directly to retailers at a much greater discount.”

RINs are earned by ethanol blenders and can then be sold on the open market to oil refiners, which use the credits to demonstrate compliance with the federal renewable fuel standard (RFS). “If Big Oil companies want to sell RINs to each other, stick the money in their pockets, and then use that as an excuse to raise gasoline prices, we can’t stop them,” Shaw said.  “But we can expose the truth.  For every RIN buyer, there is a RIN seller.  And if the fuel market is competitive, then the value of the RIN should ultimately end up reducing the pump price for consumers.  In Iowa we’re cutting out the middleman to ensure that happens.”