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The federal government mandates that a certain amount of ethanol be blended with gasoline. The price of corn-based ethanol hasn't been affected by the same anchor-drop in price as petroleum fuel, however, and along with that, the complicated mechanics of its pricing and trade are said to be what is keeping the price of gas from falling even further.

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In late 2013, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed – for the first time ever – a slight slacking of the 2014 renewable fuel standard. The reason was that the US is coming up on the 'blend wall,' the overall level of ethanol in the national gasoline supply where adding any more biofuel would push the average blend in 'normal' gas above 10 percent. As we know, this is a contentious issue. So contentious that, as the EPA collects comments about the rule change, almost 1

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To paraphrase Valero Energy Company CEO Bill Klesse: Enough already on federal ethanol blend mandates!

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Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) could be a fantastic deal for investors – if the 2013 trend continues. RINs, part of a federal mandate that requires fuel producers to either make or buy ethanol or to buy RIN ethanol credits, have shot up to $1.25 a gallon. That's a wee bit higher than the price last December, when it dropped down to one cent a gallon. That means there's been a 2,000 percent price increase in prices since the beginning of the year!

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A pair of US lawmakers told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that ethanol credits are leading to some deficits. Attempting to stem what they say could be an additional boost in gas prices prior to the busy summer-driving months, David Vitter (R-LA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are raising questions, Reuters reports.

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Rodney Hailey, who was in the news last summer for selling more than $9 million in Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) credits for biofuel that, well, didn't exist, has been sentenced to nearly 12 years and six months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

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Alternative energy and cleantech have been a platform for political jabs and Congressional hearings in Washington over the past year – the Solyndra scandal, Chevrolet Volt post-crash-test battery fires, and Fisker Automotive's Department of Energy grant loan quickly come to mind. The latest one deals with companies committing fraud tied into the federal renewable fuel standard, and it's not pretty.

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This is a most interesting way to make nine million dollars: selling $9.1 million worth of renewable energy credits that you don't actually have.

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Click above for a high-res gallery of the Hi-CT

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