OREANDA-NEWS. Prices plummeted for credits used to comply with US biofuel mandates as the surprise election of Donald Trump created uncertainty around the program's future.

Prices for 2016 renewable identification numbers (RINs) used by refiners, importers and other companies to comply with federal blending requirements plunged in early trade by as much as 7.5?/RIN from the yesterday's 84.5?/RIN settlement, before moderating to 1.5?/RIN below the prior close.

Refiners in the weeks leading up to the US presidential election refused to predict any outcomes or ultimate implications for the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires them to ensure rising volumes of biofuels enter the US transportation fuel supply each year. The program has added hundreds of millions of dollars in costs for the largest refiners and drawn campaigns to change or repeal the mandates.

But limited policy discussion and Trump's unpredictability throughout the campaign - culminating in a victory in defiance of mainstream polling - roiled the market for RINs used by obligated companies to prove compliance with the law.

Positions on the RFS split along geographic, rather than partisan, lines. Rural districts may favor the policy as another driver of corn demand or opportunity to add jobs for ethanol processing. Others that miss direct benefits chafe at any mandates or question environmental benefits.

Trump's own advisors split on the mandate's future. The president-elect's agricultural advisory committee, named in August, included governor Terry Branstad of Iowa, consistently the nation's top corn-producing state by acres harvested, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Trump vowed to "protect the Renewable Fuel Standard - corn-based ethanol" in a September speech in that state, and earlier this year said the US should continue to require much higher blending levels set by Congress roughly a decade ago.

But Trump also criticized the program in September in a fact sheet published alongside an economic policy speech before it was swiftly replaced. RFS was included in a list of "specific regulations to be eliminated."

"These requirements have turned out to be impossible to meet and are bankrupting many of the small and midsize refiners in this country," the original document said. "These regulations will give Big Oil an oligopoly by destroying the small to mid-size refineries."

That description matches criticism from some US refiners and Carl Icahn, Trump booster and occasional business partner and rival.

Ethanol trade association Renewable Fuel Association touted Trump's support for RFS today. Trump's comments on the trail and focus on trade should benefit the industry, chief executive Bob Dinneen said. His distaste for regulation should remove barriers that limit the spread of higher-ethanol blends, Dinneen added.

"We are confident Mr. Trump will continue to support the expanded production and use of fuel ethanol," Dinneen said.

Blending requirements have piled up millions of dollars in costs for midcontinent independent refiner CVR Energy, in which Icahn holds an 80pc stake. CVR joined Valero, PBF Energy and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers this year in seeking modifications to the program that would shift more of the burden of complying with the program to blenders, rather than refiners.

Refiners including Marathon Petroleum, BP and the American Petrochemical Institute favored outright repeal of the program.

Costs have risen to the point that Trump would take action on the program, said Salo Zelemeyer, senior counsel for Bracewell, a firm that has helped refiners seeking to change the RFS.

"I think that is going to be a priority and we will start to see that addressed," Salo Zelemeyer said.