According to recent study by FAPRI-MU higher biofuel blending requirements through the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) increase the incentives to use higher biofuel blends, as seen by high Renewable Identification Number (RIN) prices so far this year. The study began with baseline projections for biofuel and agricultural markets and then built on a series of assumptions about how the RFS will be implemented and how market participants will respond.
One key question of the study: what will happen when the RFS requires greater levels of biofuel use than can be achieved with 10 percent ethanol blends and mandated levels of biodiesel use?
The baseline assumes that domestic ethanol use will exceed the 10-percent “blend wall” if the effective cost of ethanol to blenders and fuel consumers drops low enough, long enough to encourage the use of higher-level blends such as E85 and E15; yet, how low and how long. The baseline assumes that use of these higher-level blends will only increase significantly if the consumer-level cost of these fuels is at a slight discount to conventional fuels, even after taking into account the lower energy value of ethanol-blended fuels.
The report looked at these questions from different perspectives using alternative assumptions about the implementation of the RFS and the behavior of biofuel market participants:
1. The first section calculates hypothetical RIN prices that would cover costs and discounts necessary to encourage expanded use of E85. Under one set of assumptions, the implied RIN values are very close to those recently observed in the market, but plausible changes in assumptions yield estimates that range from $0.28 to $2.34 per gallon.
2. The second section examines a scenario that assumes ethanol-blended fuel must sell at a deeper discount to conventional gasoline to encourage use of high-level blends—a somewhat steeper