Green Room

EPA fines oil refiners for failing to use nonexistent biofuel

posted at 11:58 am on June 22, 2012 by

Question: Do you fill your car’s tank with gasoline that is part cellulosic ethanol, an environment-friendly distillate of wood chips, corn cobs, and switch grass? Let me answer for you: No, you don’t. You couldn’t if you wanted to. Petroleum products blended with cellulosic ethanol aren’t commercially available, because the technology for mass-producing cellulosic ethanol hasn’t been perfected. None of which has stopped the Environmental Protection Agency  from imposing hefty yearly fines on oil refiners. According to the The New York Times, in 2011 automotive fuel producers were assessed $6.8 million in penalties. That amount is expected to climb dramatically this year. Guess who ends up footing the bill for the difference?

This has got to be the ultimate example of government bureaucracy gone mad. How did it happen? Blame can be divided over the last two administrations. In his 2006 State of the Union Address, George W. Bush promised to “fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks or switch grass.” The following year, Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), which mandates that oil refiners begin blending cellulosic ethanol into their gasoline and diesel products.

The “advanced biofuel contribution” under the law was to begin in 2009 at 0.6 billion gallons of cellulosic biomass and rise incrementally, first to 1.35 billion gallons in 2011, then to 2 billion gallons in 2012, and so on. By 2022, 21 billion gallons of fuel pumped into the nation’s cars and trucks was to be cellulosic ethanol.

The law further stipulated that if refiners failed to comply with the EPA mandate, they would pay a penalty.

The only problem with this arrangement was that the grant recipients responsible for coming up with Bush’s “cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol … from wood chips and stalks or switch grass” instead came up empty. In a 2011 report, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that “currently, no commercially viable bio-refineries exist for converting cellulosic biomass to fuel.” The report also noted that the renewable fuel standard “may be an ineffective policy for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions,” since the full life cycle of the fuel, including its transport, could lead to higher emissions than conventional petroleum.

Undaunted, the Obama administration has forged blindly ahead, continuing the elusive search for a technology that will produce cellulosic biomass—at taxpayers’ expense. Since thanks to the EPA mandate we are already paying more at the pump, the American people are truly getting nothing for something.

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The fascist state. Might as well fine me for not tipping the Tooth Fairy.

rbj on June 22, 2012 at 12:12 PM

But they’ll do much better at dealing with your medical emergency, don’t you fret about it.

WitchDoctor on June 22, 2012 at 12:12 PM

Somehow this does not surprise me one bit. The epa is the worse out of control agency in dc, IMO. I hope Mitt will do a major overhaul getting rid of the epa as much as humanly possible!

letget on June 22, 2012 at 12:25 PM

They had a few of these wood start-up companies in Georgia and they all went bankrupt. For example:

Cellulosic ethanol company Range Fuels is closing its Soperton, Georgia facility after completing it first batch of ethanol, according to story posted by Georgia Public Broadcasting.

The firm, which has received more than $300 million dollars in state, federal and private funding, will lay off the majority of its workers and shutter operations, while it attempts to raise more money and address technical issues….

…In 2007, the company received $76 million from the Department of Energy, which was followed by an $80 million loan guarantee from the Department of Agriculture in 2010. Range Fuels is also backed by Khosla Ventures, Passport Capital, BlueMountain, Leaf Clean Energy Company and Pacific Capital Group.

Buy Danish on June 22, 2012 at 12:25 PM

Need we any more proof that idiots are running this country?

sadatoni on June 22, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Another reason to be pissed at W. What the hell was he thinking? He might as well have signed into law the requirement that refineries use unicorn poop in their refining process. Gods, but he did too many bone-headed things.

totherightofthem on June 22, 2012 at 12:33 PM

Please tell me again how good Dubya was. Both parties are a curse on the US. Yes, idiots run the country. Idiots of both parties.

Quartermaster on June 22, 2012 at 12:33 PM

Unicorns Skittles Pie-in-the sky Hope and Change blah de blah de blah…

Nothing for somthing meh…

If it wasn’t so ‘tragic’ it’d be funny lmao

Scrumpy on June 22, 2012 at 12:34 PM

Why do you hate Science, Mr. Portnoy? Why?

sadarj on June 22, 2012 at 1:13 PM

Definite down twinkles to W for signing that EISA POS – but more for Obummer and ALL of congress for allowing the EPA to fine companies for something this stupid.

dentarthurdent on June 22, 2012 at 2:04 PM

Just add this to the ever-growing stack of reasons why to get out & get active this election year… in every city, every county, every state from sea-to-shining-sea, we must reduce the number of libs & RINOs at all levels of gov’t, while we yet have the chance. Replace all of them with Constitutional conservatives, who have the proper respect and reverence for the values and principles that made this the greatest country on earth!

“Ask not what your TEA Party can do for you…” ~ DeepWheat

DeepWheat on June 22, 2012 at 2:18 PM

More gubmint idiocy, so why is the “fish-wrap of record” NYT publicizing it?

stukinIL4now on June 22, 2012 at 2:25 PM

Blame can be divided over the last two administrations. In his 2006 State of the Union Address, George W. Bush promised to “fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks or switch grass.” The following year, Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), which mandates that oil refiners begin blending cellulosic ethanol into their gasoline and diesel products.

nuff sed…

ericdijon on June 22, 2012 at 4:57 PM

This post has been promoted to

Comments have been closed on this post but the discussion continues here.

Ed Morrissey on June 22, 2012 at 10:58 PM

The posters here forget that Bush had a Democratic Congress and we are stuck at the present time with a Democratic controlled Senate. The Mormon haters forget that Harry Reid is a Mormon. Our Country has too many people smokin weed and can’t remember $hit.

mixplix on June 23, 2012 at 7:09 AM

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