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COMMENTARY: RFS Changes Would Hurt Small Retailers & Our Customers


Billionaire Carl Icahn's recent column defending the legality of his attacks on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) seemed to suggest that he was speaking for small fuel retailers, like me. He is not.

My husband and I are third-generation owners of Hennen's Auto Service, which has been family owned and operated since 1958. Small businesses like ours have led the charge to bring new consumer fuel options online. As Lance Klatt, executive director of Minnoco, recently pointed out: "Hundreds of single-store owners spearheaded the adoption of the first blender pumps, which allow individual stations to offer options like gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol (E15) and E85."

The RFS is the policy that made it possible to offer our customers a wider range of clean, high-octane fuel options. Under the current structure of the RFS, we can blend our own ethanol or buy ethanol blends at a discount from distributors, delivering the savings to our customers.

Drivers appreciate that higher biofuel blends can deliver more octane for their dollar. And they appreciate that biofuels help keep the air clean. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, conventional ethanol emits 43 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline over its full lifecycle. By 2022, the department anticipates that ethanol’s relative carbon benefits will rise to 50 percent or more.

Rewriting the RFS now to benefit the refining sector would destroy the economic incentive to bring higher biofuel blends into new markets, and limit the growth of homegrown fuels.

Mr. Icahn's proposal would also impose a major regulatory burden on hundreds, if not thousands, of fuel retailers and distributors, leading to chaos in the market and higher costs for everyone.

Already, dozens of organizations across the supply chain — the National Association of Truckstop Operators (NATSO); NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing; and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA) — have announced their support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s preliminary decision to reject changes in the RFS.

As the agency noted, Mr. Icahn's proposal "would have no beneficial impact on the RFS program" and would "decrease competition among parties that buy and sell transportation fuels at the rack, potentially increasing fuel prices for consumers and profit margins for refiners."

These views are shared by consumer groups and biofuel advocates across the country. That's why it is hard to take the refinery owner seriously when he claims that demanding a corporate handout is his way of "fighting the establishment." 

Hundreds of thousands of rural workers are employed in the production and sale of American-made biofuels thanks to the RFS. These are the same Midwestern voters who rallied behind President Donald Trump because of his promise to protect the RFS and advance a pro-biofuel platform to revitalize rural economies.

As a small fuel retailer, I urge policymakers to protect the RFS and investments made by small businesses like mine to bring our customers new, affordable fueling options.

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.

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