(Adds detail from conference call, context, background)
By Jarrett Renshaw and Chris Prentice
NEW YORK, July 27 (Reuters) - CVR Refining racked up its highest-ever bill to meet U.S. biofuel standards during the second quarter, putting it on track to pay a record amount in 2017, the company said in an earnings call on Thursday.
The refiner, which is majority-held by billionaire investor Carl Icahn, said it paid $106 million to meet the U.S. biofuel regulations in the quarter, far surpassing its previous quarterly record of $65.5 million in 2013, according to a Reuters analysis.
The company now expects to pay $200 million to $250 million in biofuels costs in 2017, up from its previous forecast of $170 million. CVR held a record $205.9 million in outstanding biofuel obligations in 2016, but it deferred most of those costs into this year in hopes that the cost of the credits at the heart of controversial program would fall.
The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency, requires biofuels, such as ethanol, to be blended into the nation’s gasoline and diesel. Fuel importers and refiners have the responsibility to blend the renewable fuels or purchase credits from others that have.
A Reuters review of securities filings earlier this year showed that CVR had accumulated a large short position in biofuels blending credits, called Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs). The short position meant the company would have been in a strong position to profit if RIN prices fell.
Renewable fuel credits have been hovering at 80 cents each in recent days, up signficantly from this year’s low of 34 cents hit in March.
CBR’s short position helped yield a rare, though modest, profit in the first quarter as prices for the renewable fuel credits tumbled amid news that Icahn - by then an informal adviser for President Donald Trump - pushed for market-moving changes to the controversial program.
Icahn’s actions have drawn the ire of several Democratic senators, who called on U.S. regulators to examine whether he was benefiting from his informal role with the White House.
Jack Lipinski, the chief executive of CVR, has been among the most hardened critics of the U.S. biofuel policy, calling it “stupid” and prone to market manipulation that benefits traders and big oil companies at the expense of smaller refiners.
Lipinski was asked in Thursday’s call to provide some more details on the company current credit short position. He declined, saying he would answer that question “when Chevron, Exxon and when the traders that are manipulating the RINs market open up their books and say what they’re doing.”
Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Chris Prentice; Editing by Leslie Adler