Billionaire investor Carl Icahn's oil refining company, CVR Energy, made a massive bet in 2016 that prices for U.S. government biofuels credits would fall — just before Icahn started advising President Donald Trump on regulations driving that market.
The size and specifics of the gamble — involving $186 million worth of biofuels credits the company said it needed at the end of 2016 to satisfy regulatory requirements — have not been previously reported by the media.
The credit system is designed to encourage the mixing of renewable fuels, such as ethanol, into gasoline or diesel. The government awards the biofuels credits to firms that produce such blends — and requires firms that don't, such as CVR, to buy the credits from their competitors.
Icahn's firm positioned itself to slash those regulatory costs by tens of millions of dollars if biofuels credit prices declined, according to a Reuters review of CVR filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and interviews with two brokers involved in the firm's trading of biofuels credits.
Last year, in a counterintuitive trading strategy, Icahn's refining firm postponed buying biofuels credits and instead sold millions of them — a bet that it could buy the credits it would need later at lower prices, according to the two brokers and CVR's year-end SEC filing.