We regularly connect restrictions on energy use and control of health care insurance as two potent weapons in the hands of a government intent on creating a docile and submissive populace, so a brief moment of celebration is permissible in light of the Environmental Protection Agency’s minor climb-down on renewable fuel standards.
A week ago Friday, the EPA proposed to reduce by 16 percent—to 15.2 billion gallons—its mandated amount of ethanol to be added to U.S. gasoline supplies in 2014. For a host of reasons it’s a travesty that any amount is mandated at all, but less is better than more.
The irony is that environmental benefits have been one of the false premises on which the ethanol mandate has been sold to the consuming public. The case can be made that growing food to burn—inefficiently—in our gas tanks causes net environmental damage, through factors like increased energy consumption and fertilizer runoff from planting crops on marginal land.
James Taylor, Senior Fellow for Environmental Policy at the conservative Heartland Institute, gave grudging credit to the EPA’s “long-overdue realization that ethanol mandates not only cost consumers money, but they also inflict substantial environmental damage. The only beneficiaries of ethanol mandates are special interests who use the power of government to profit off of the American people.”
Lest we mistake this for an epiphany at the EPA, note that its decision is forced by more fuel-efficient vehicles driving ever-increasing ethanol mandates into the ten percent “blend wall.” Even the EPA’s uber-regulators can understand the trouble they’d be in if they mandated adding amounts of ethanol that ruin automobile engines and void manufacturers’ warranties.
We hope the ethanol lobby fights back hard. It just might attract enough scrutiny to end this long-running rip-off.