Commentary by Marita Noon - We all expect to pay a price for missing deadlines—fail to pay a ticket on time, and you may find a warrant out for your arrest. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can apparently miss deadlines with impunity.
For the past two years, the EPA has failed to meet the statutory deadline under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), requiring the agency to tell refiners how much ethanol to blend into the nation’s motor fuels.
In November 2013, the EPA attempted to announce the proposed 2014 blend levels, which by then came months past the legally mandated deadline. The EPA surprised and pleased RFS opponents when it utilized its authority by taking market conditions into consideration to adjust levels. The agency set the proposed 2014 standard to a level lower than 2013’s, even though the law requires increasing amounts. Ethanol producers, expecting the usual uptick, loudly opposed the reduction. They made so much noise, the EPA agreed to reconsider. To date, the 2014 standards have not yet been announced.
Then, on November 21, the EPA announced it would make a decision next year on how much ethanol refiners had to add to gasoline this year. Yet, if refiners don’t meet the unknown requirement, they get fined. That’s akin to handing out the class syllabus after the students have failed the final exam.
With the goal of reducing foreign oil imports, Congress enacted the RFS in 2005 and revised it in 2007—which also provided incentives to America’s fledgling ethanol industry. At the time, gasoline demand was rising to an all-time high and oil imports comprised more than 58 percent of U.S. oil consumption. No doubt Congress believed it was saving American consumers from their addiction to oil.
Then the world changed. The U.S. economy plunged into a terrible recession, unemployment soared, and gasoline demand fell sharply. Meanwhile, advanced drilling technologies, including the long-used hydraulic fracturing and newer horizontal drilling, began producing oil and natural gas from U.S. shale formations—previously uneconomic to develop—leading to America’s 21st-century energy boom.
Today the U.S. stands as the world’s largest natural-gas producer, projected to pass Saudi Arabia as the number-one oil producer. With crude-oil supplies flooding the market, prices have been cut in half. Although fears over foreign-oil dependence have abated, the U.S. remains stuck with an outdated, unworkable, and even harmful—to vehicles, engines, and the environment—ethanol mandate. Read full Marita Noon column on Breitbart.com