Big Ethanol suddenly pretty upset about the EPA’s legal vagaries

posted at 4:01 pm on November 22, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

The Big Ethanol lobby has been having a rough go of it lately, what with the Associated Press publishing a big exposé over just how decidedly not-”green” corn-based ethanol really is, followed by the Environmental Protection Agency confirming the industry’s worst fears by announcing that a rumored reduction to the Renewable Fuel Standard would indeed go forward. The industry-wide freakout over the very possibility of an RFS reduction — which will now allow refiners to ease up a bit on the amount of so-called biofuel they’re required to blend into the country’s fuel supply, rather than charging forward with the regularly scheduled increase — aptly demonstrated just how deeply the change will affect the ethanol industry’s artificially bloated market share. Now that they’re in survival-mode, they’re turning to questioning the EPA’s legal authority to even make such a move in the first place. Via Ethanol Producer Magazine (h/t RealClearEnergy):

The Renewable Fuels Association held a media teleconference Nov. 21, to address the issue of whether the U.S. EPA has the statutory authority to lower the total renewable fuel standard (RFS) numbers, as reflected in the agency’s current proposed rule for the 2014 renewable volume obligations (RVO).

The RFA has made it clear it doesn’t believe the EPA can use the so-called blend wall as justification for a more than 3 billion gallon reduction in the overall required volumes of the RFS. The agency does have specific authority to reduce the volumes required for cellulosic ethanol, and has done that previously. However, RFA believes it has overstepped itself by proposing to reduce the total volume numbers. “We don’t believe that the agency can invent authority that it does not have by virtue of the statute,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA, during the call. …

The RFA believes EPA is going beyond its authority by introducing the idea of a blend wall into a waiver provision that is focused on production and supply, not consumption. “That’s where we think that EPA has dramatically overstepped their bounds, overstepped the statute and is making a fundamental mistake,” he said

Funny — I don’t recall the ethanol lobby professing many scruples last year when the EPA was trying to prosecute oil companies for failing to comply with mandates about proper volumes of cellulosic ethanol — when the specific biofuels to which they were referring weren’t actually available in commercial quantities.

Anyhow. The EPA certainly does have a track record of, ahem, shall we say “stretching” the bounds of their authority, and the ethanol industry is pretty much correct in that it will be up to Congress to effectively undo the supply- and demand-distorting, economy-damaging influence of the RFS once and for all. While some Democrats may finally be cottoning on the fact that corn ethanol is certainly no boon for addressing climate change, lawmakers’ regional loyalties still tend to play the more powerful role in determining which way they’d vote — and you can bet that the ethanol lobby will be fighting that eventuality tooth and nail.


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Was that corn buttered or just jammed in there dry?

Akzed on November 22, 2013 at 4:10 PM

Bad Booze.

trigon on November 22, 2013 at 4:12 PM

They can always sell off their remaining stock as corn syrup, with no further processing even needed.

whatcat on November 22, 2013 at 4:14 PM

Try imagining constitutional government… it’s a fun daydream.

Akzed on November 22, 2013 at 4:15 PM

Was that corn buttered or just jammed in there dry?
Akzed on November 22, 2013 at 4:10 PM

Vaseline

Corn fcks engines up

BigSven on November 22, 2013 at 4:18 PM

If ethanol is so great then it doesn’t need standards to enforce its use nor subsidies to grow corn: it will do just fine without either if it is the better choice.

If it isn’t the better choice then we are subsidizing turning food into fuel and then making regulations to enforce that.

So how about getting rid of the subsidies and the standards and finding out just how good ethanol really is as a fuel?

ajacksonian on November 22, 2013 at 4:20 PM

Increased ethanol content has cost us thousands of dollars in engine and fuel system damage and repair. Which, in turn, requires the manufacture, shipment, and installation of replacement parts at a carbon/emissions cost far in excess of any savings from ethanol in the first place. But it’s the thought that counts.

JeremiahJohnson on November 22, 2013 at 4:22 PM

Sound and prudent public policy dictates the ethanol subsidy and all other agricultural subsidies be zeroed out. They distort the marketplace.

If there is some sentimental concern for “family farmers,” the public image persisting of a bygone class of people, then continue all subsidies for only those farms with adjusted gross incomes under $250,000.00. That will make us “feel” better while still eliminating 99% of the subsidy payments.

Increased ethanol content has cost us thousands of dollars in engine and fuel system damage and repair. Which, in turn, requires the manufacture, shipment, and installation of replacement parts at a carbon/emissions cost far in excess of any savings from ethanol in the first place. But it’s the thought that counts.

JeremiahJohnson on November 22, 2013 at 4:22 PM

[emphasis added]

Correction: make that “billions”.

Adjoran on November 22, 2013 at 4:32 PM

They can always sell off their remaining stock as corn syrup, with no further processing even needed.

whatcat on November 22, 2013 at 4:14 PM

Uh-oh!

You are going to scare all the women with thoughts of “high fructose corn syrup” turning their kids into crack heads or something.

Adjoran on November 22, 2013 at 4:34 PM

JeremiahJohnson on November 22, 2013 at 4:22 PM

Unless you are listening to these idiot NASCAR drivers. They running around telling everyone that ethanol is the best thing since sliced bread for engines because they run it in their cars all the time. Nevermind the fact that they race with $100K engines that are torn down and rebuilt after every race. Go ahead and take their word for it in you $20k daily driver.

JAGonzo on November 22, 2013 at 4:38 PM

This has been possibly the largest example in history of rent seeking. It ought to be taught in economics classes.

Steven Den Beste on November 22, 2013 at 4:42 PM

“We don’t believe that the agency can invent authority that it does not have by virtue of the statute,”

It’s the 0bama administration. They do what they like, law and authority be damned. Catch up, corn-heads.

iurockhead on November 22, 2013 at 4:42 PM

Big Ethanol suddenly pretty upset about the EPA’s legal vagaries

Lay down with dogs, get up with fleas.

davidk on November 22, 2013 at 4:42 PM

If we stopped subsidizing and mandating the stuff the poor Nations of the Earth would thank us for a decline in food prices. Mexico and India in particular.

That would be a great way to show that we cared about the poor around the planet without having to send them a single penny of cash.

Far too simple for the Left to understand that, of course.

ajacksonian on November 22, 2013 at 4:43 PM

The most widely used varieties of HFCS are: HFCS 55 (mostly used in soft drinks), approximately 55% fructose and 42% glucose; and HFCS 42 (used in beverages, processed foods, cereals, and baked goods), approximately 42% fructose and 53% glucose

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-fructose_corn_syrup

Table sugar is 50% fructose.

“High” fructose corn syrup is typically 55% fructose or 42% fructose.

Chicken Little would be proud of the “high” fructose scare.

fred5678 on November 22, 2013 at 4:46 PM