December 1 2012

Regulations for Thee but Not for Me

Vicki E. Alger

Last month the EPA rejected petitions from seven states to suspend biofuel blending mandates under the   federal renewable fuel standard (RFS) program. As the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Marlo Lewis explains in NRO:

This program requires refiners to blend increasing quantities of biofuel — mostly corn ethanol — into the nation’s motor-fuel supply. The 2012 target is to blend 13.2 billion gallons of biofuel into our gasoline, a quantity that ratchets up to 13.8 billion gallons in 2013. This year, about 4.7 billion bushels, or 40 percent of the nation’s corn crop, will be consumed by ethanol manufacturing. The governors contend that the RFS program, combined with the worst drought in 50 years, pushed corn prices to record highs, harming their states’ poultry, beef, pork, and dairy producers, who use corn as animal feed. The Clean Air Act authorizes Lisa P. Jackson, the EPA’s administrator, to waive the RFS targets for one year if those requirements would “severely harm” the economy of a state, a region, or the United States as a whole.

What this means is higher prices at the pump on top of lower fuel efficiency. But the EPA has set an impossibly high bar to be exempted from environment mandates due to economic hardship, as Lewis continues:

The EPA stated petitioners would have to show that the “RFS itself” was the cause of severe harm, not merely a “contributing” factor. In addition, petitioners would have to show that waiving the RFS would be a “remedy” for the hardship facing livestock producers. These criteria are ridiculous.

Especially when compared to the standards the EPA uses to impose regulations, which require only the smallest possible (real or imagined) harm to trigger new mandates. Forthcoming greenhouse-gas emissions standards are already in place, even though the EPA states it has no obligation to prove that regulating emissions would improve environmental quality. But here’s an example that really takes the cake, says Lewis:

For sheer results-be-damned regulation, however, nothing beats the EPA’s proposed CO2 emission standards for fossil-fuel power plants. The EPA does “not anticipate any notable CO2 emissions changes resulting from” the standards and, thus, concludes that “there are no direct monetized climate benefits in terms of CO2 emission reductions associated with this rulemaking.” In short, the standards would not even make a negligible contribution to a solution — yet the EPA proposes them anyway.

The “silver” lining amidst so many double-standards says Lewis is that

Jackson’s rejection of the waiver petitions exposes the RFS program as an arbitrary, inflexible system that provides corporate welfare to corn farmers at the expense of livestock producers, consumers, and hungry people in developing countries. The EPA’s decision may very well build support for RFS reform — or repeal.

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