It’s Buffett vs. Icahn as Lobbying Heats Up Over U.S. Ethanol
by Mario Parker (Bloomberg) Association of American Railroads argues against Icahn efforts; Renewable fuel paper credits trading at one-week high — U.S. railroads, including Warren Buffett’s BNSF, are joining a corporate brawl over ethanol mandates that pits American corn farmers and fuel distributors against independent oil refiners like billionaire Carl Icahn.
The American Association of Railroads (AAR), which represents the interests of BNSF, Union Pacific Corp., CSX Corp., Norfolk Southern Corp. and others, is pushing back against calls by Icahn’s CVR Energy Inc. and Valero Energy Corp. for changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard, the law that requires escalating amounts of biofuel to be mixed with petroleum.
At issue is who’s responsible for showing compliance with the program. Adherence is tracked by paper credits that have become more expensive in recent years. Refiners argue that the costs are exorbitant and that the Environmental Protection Agency, the regulator that has jurisdiction over the mandate, should move the onus from them to lower down the supply chain, closer to consumers.
That would put companies such as BNSF, the carrier owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., and Union Pacific, the largest publicly traded U.S. railroad, on the hook for showing compliance with the credits, AAR said in an e-mailed statement Monday. It would also increase fuel prices, the lobbying group said.
In November, the EPA rejected Valero’s petition to have the obligation moved, saying that while the program has its challenges, making that change would create fresh obstacles. The agency left open the possibility for change, though, by opening up a comment period that ends Feb. 22.
Meanwhile, RINs have tumbled about 48 percent since Donald Trump was elected U.S. president on Nov. 8. In December, he named Icahn as a special adviser on regulations, and he’s also nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a critic of the program, to head the EPA. READ MORE / MORE and MORE / MORE (Reuters)