Cooler Heads Digest 30 December 2011

by William Yeatman on December 30, 2011

in Blog, Cooler Heads Digest

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In the News

Obamacar for the 1 Percent
Henry Payne, Planet Gore, 30 December 2011

Should We Fear the Methane Time Bomb?
Marlo Lewis,, 29 December 2011

Bring on 2012!
Robert Bradley, Master Resource, 29 December 2011

Why “Beyond Petroleum” Gave up on Solar
Paul Chesser, National Legal and Policy Center, 28 December 2011

Don’t Miss the Energy “Technolution”
Kirk Spano, Market Watch, 28 December 2011

The Circular Logic of Energy Independence
Jonathan Thompson, High Country News, 27 December 2011

Dingell’s Volt Goof
Dan Calabrese, The Michigan View, 26 December 2011

News You Can Use

Chevy Volt Subsidy up to $250,000 Per Car

Marlo Lewis

James Hohman of Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy estimates that state and federal incentives for GM’s plug-in hybrid vehicle, the Chevy Volt, total $3 billion. That works out to between $50,000 and $250,000 in taxpayer support for each of 6,000 Volts sold so far, “depending on how many of the subsidy milestones are realized.”

Inside the Beltway

EPA Issues Utility MACT

On December 23, EPA promulgated a final Mercury and Air Toxics rule, also known as the Utility MACT. The regulation has an annual price tag anywhere from $10 billion (EPA’s estimate) to $100 billion (industry’s estimate), making it one of the most expensive regulations ever. Its justification is to protect pregnant, subsistence fisherwomen who consume more than 300 pounds of self-or family-caught fish annually. In light of this ridiculous rationale, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s decision to announce the    rule at a children’s hospital was shameless.

For more on the Utility MACT, see: How Paul Krugman Botched His Mercury Commentary by the Institute for Energy Research; and Environmental Hocus Pocus, by Heritage Foundation’s David Kreutzer

Ethanol Subsidies Expire; Mandate Continues

This week the EPA finalized the 2012 biofuel volume mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard, as established by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The controversial cellulosic “mandate” is currently set at 8.65 million gallons, down from an initial “requirement” of 500 million gallons as set by the EISA. In previous years, the EPA has held cellulosic requirements at levels greater than zero gallons, despite it being commercially unavailable. As a result, refiners have been required to purchase cellulosic “credits” from the EPA in lieu of purchasing the (nonexistent) cellulosic ethanol. Refiners expect to spend roughly $8 million complying with this bogus program in 2012 unless cellulosic ethanol finally materializes.

In related ethanol news, this week also marks the end of the ethanol tax credit (VEETC) and the corresponding tariff on ethanol imports. As the Wall Street Journal noted today: “Congress created ethanol subsidies in 1978, expanded them in a 1980 bill, and then rinsed and repeated in 1982, 1984, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1998, 2004, 2005 and 2007.” The more damaging mandate, the Renewable Fuel Standard, remains in effect.

The RFS will require oil refiners to blend 15.2 billion gallons of biofuels into our fuel supply this year, and will increase to 36 billion gallons by 2022. How this will be possible remains to be seen, as consumers have shown little interest in purchasing vehicles that run primarily on ethanol, and there are a number of difficulties in requiring that non-modified cars run on gasoline containing much more than 10-15 percent ethanol.

Across the States


This week in California, a federal district court invalidated the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, a requirement that upstream producers of transportation fuel (i.e., refineries and distributors) reduce the carbon intensity of gasoline sold in the state. Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger imposed the LCFS in 2007, by executive order. The regulation accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions reductions California is relying on to achieve the climate change goals of the state’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act, which Schwarzenegger championed.

Judge Lawrence O’Neill determined that the LCFS violated the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, because it effectively regulated interstate commerce to the detriment of some states. The plaintiffs were farmers and ethanol groups, who stood to lose market-share to Brazilian ethanol producers due to the fact that Brazil’s sugar-cane ethanol is less carbon intensive than American corn ethanol.  Judge O’Neil allowed for the State to immediately appeal to the 9th federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

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