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Biodiesel in The Age of Trump

| February 22, 2017
 Michael Devine New England Sales & Marketing Representative AMERIgreen Energy

by Michael Devine, New England Sales & Marketing Representative, AMERIgreen Energy

I believe that it’s fair to speculate that most historians will remember the year 2016 as the year that the American people elected Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of United States. The year 2016 was also, on a much smaller scale, one of the best years ever for marketers to blend biodiesel. 

Biodiesel blend margins started out nominal to start the year in 2016, but as we moved into the summer months we saw the blend economics explode. Those marketers, who marketed B-20 blends (20% biodiesel mixed with diesel fuel), were able to lock in forward differentials.

Trump and the RFS

As we move into 2017, the biodiesel markets are admittedly somewhat paralyzed. There are huge unknowns that the biodiesel markets are grappling with. The new government administration does not appear as friendly towards the renewable fuels industry as prior administrations, but it is still early.  Many producers are taking a wait and see approach towards 2017 production. While Trump expressed strong support for the RFS as a candidate, his selection of Scott Pruitt, as his pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raised eyebrows.  Mr. Pruitt was the Attorney General of Oklahoma, a big oil state and has a history of suing the EPA.

There was a recent positive sign however, to the RFS markets as Scott Pruitt voiced support for both the Renewable Fuel Standard and the “rule of law” in January meetings with a group of Midwest Republican senators. Iowa’s senior U.S. senator, Chuck Grassley, said in a statement, “We got a very positive response on Mr. Pruitt’s support not just for the RFS, but more importantly, for the rule of law. The rule of law is that what Congress passed, the EPA is supposed to follow and not undermine it, the way that previous administrations have done with the RFS.”

Trump and The Biodiesel Tax Credit

The other federal policy concern for the biodiesel market moving into 2017, is the biodiesel industry’s lack of optimism regarding a biodiesel tax credit (BTC) extension, as the BTC lapses again, for the fifth time. With the Republican Party now having a majority in both houses of Congress, we are likely to see what might be described as the single-largest tax-reform bill since 1986.  The fear is that the U.S. Congress and the Trump White House might decide to eliminate many of the existing energy tax credits. What used to be referred to as a collection of tax extenders is now likely going to have each individual energy tax credit to be considered on their own individual merits.  With differing biodiesel interests lobbying against one another as to whether the biodiesel tax credit should remain as a blenders tax credit as opposed to moving to a producer’s tax credit, biodiesel’s detractors will be in a very good position to make the case that since biodiesel is already receiving a RIN, why would the industry still need a tax credit at all?  The possible lapse of the biodiesel tax credit as well as Trumps decisions on cabinet appointments have created a lot of anxiety in the biodiesel markets, causing a number of producers to ramp production lower so far in 2017.

Remember, Trump is The Ultimate Entrepreneur

Speaking on potential policy reversals and changes rumored under President-elect Donald Trump, Myers Jaffe, Executive Director of energy and sustainability at the University of California, Davis warned of the dangers of moving against innovation. “If we change course and stop focusing on advancing technology, we are going to get behind and wind up non-competitive,” said Jaffe. She discussed consumer trends exhibited from “environmentally oriented” millennials and how corporations are answering those calls. She went on to say that 43% of Fortune 500 companies have targets in one of three categories – greenhouse gas reduction commitments, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

For those of us who have come to realize the highest value of the biodiesel gallon over the years, we have found that the profits are not only generated around a blend margin; growing gallons is contingent in the consistency of always reinforcing biodiesel’s benefits to the consumer.  Biodiesel marketing is all about an entrepreneur attitude, packaged through an altruistic message to the consumer. While “the experts” may not always call national elections or commodity markets perfectly, one thing is for sure, biodiesel marketing will continue to make America great, again and again and again.

Author:  Michael Devine, New England Sales & Marketing Representative, AMERIgreen Energy

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Category: Fuel and Oil, Uncategorized

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