Actual headline from the Y Combinator Twitter feed that made me click through to the article:
Why did a Train Carrying Biofuel Cross the Border 24 Times and Never Unload? j.mp/12WJUbZ
— news.yc Popular (@newsycombinator) January 3, 2013
So why did the train cross the border 24 times and never unload? My first thought was “to get to the other side”. Turns out that was wrong.
I’ll spoil the riddle for you:
The cargo of the train was owned by Bioversal Trading Inc., or its US partner Verdero, depending on what stage of the trip it was at. The companies “made several million dollars importing and exporting the fuel to exploit a loophole in a U.S. green energy program.” Each time the loaded train crossed the border the cargo earned its owner a certain amount of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), which were awarded by the US EPA to “promote and track production and importation of renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.” The RINs were supposed to be retired each time the shipment passed the border, but due to a glitch not all of them were. This enabled Bioversal to accumulate over 12 million RINs from the 24 trips, worth between 50 cents and $1 each, which they can then sell on to oil companies that haven’t met the EPA’s renewable fuel requirements.
This was all perfectly legal, at least according to the companies involved. The US and Canadian governments are investigating, according to the article, so the “perfectly legal” part may be in dispute.
(Wouldn’t you have enjoyed being a fly in the cab of that train and listening to the crew talk as they went back and forth and back and forth and back and forth across the border?)