WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2016 - A majority of consumers say switching the point of obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard wouldn’t be in their benefit, according to a survey backed by groups representing parties who would feel the brunt of the change.

A switch in the point of obligation would mean that compliance with the RFS – making sure that specific amounts of renewable fuels are blended with the nation’s gasoline supply – would no longer fall on the refiners, but the retailers. Critics of the proposal – including many renewable fuel groups – say this would cut the legs out from under the program; refiners that are already opposed to the RFS would be under no requirement to comply with it.

According to an online survey of just over 1,200 U.S. voters, 86 percent of those queried believe that “it’s likely that changes in the RFS will be passed on to businesses and individuals in the form of higher gasoline prices at the pump.” The survey was conducted by the National Association of Convenience Stores, the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America, and NATSO, which represents travel plaza and truck stop owners.

In the survey, 81 percent of respondents agreed that making retailers and wholesalers subject to the point of obligation would lead to “expensive administration compliance issues” at the EPA. Respondents also agreed – at a 91 percent rate – that point of obligation is the responsibility of refiners, not retailers.

The RFS is a detailed, nuanced policy, however, which may lead a casual observer to wonder if the surveyed consumers were well versed on the issues at play. The survey’s questions may also have been worded to generate an agreeable response.

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For example, here is the question about whether refiners or retailers should be subject to the point of obligation: “Wholesalers and convenience stores that sell to consumers do not make gasoline. That is what refiners do. Wholesalers and convenience stores should not have to pay for the credits that cover the cost of blending ethanol. That is the job of refiners. Please indicate whether you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with this statement.”

The response to this question – and the other questions as well – showed strong agreement with the sentence across all age, gender, race, income, and party demographics.


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