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US: The trouble with money for nothing…

October 13, 2012

… is that crooks have plenty of nothing.

Under the E.P.A. program, initiated in 2009, a producer who makes diesel fuel from vegetable oils and animal fats receives renewable energy credits for every gallon manufactured. The producer can then sell the credits to refiners, who pay millions of dollars for them under a government mandate to support a minimum level of production.

The credits can also be resold, a commonplace activity in the arena of corporate compliance with federal environmental rules.

The problem is that at least three companies were selling bogus credits without producing any biodiesel at all, the E.P.A. has said in announcements over the last year. Agency officials declined to comment for this article.

Now no one is certain how many of the credits are real. So far, more than $100 million in fraudulent credits have been identified, the refining industry estimates. That amounts to roughly 5 percent of the credits issued since 2009, but the percentage could rise as current investigations of other producers progress.

The credits are easier to counterfeit than hundred-dollar bills. Known as “renewable identification numbers,” or RINs, the 38-digit credits have no physical form and are traded electronically. Exxon Mobil, Marathon and Sunoco are among the many big companies that have bought bogus credits.


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