Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) yesterday issued their second white paper in a series intended as a first step to reviewing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The first white paper, released March 20, 2013, addresses Blend Wall/Fuel Compatibility Issues. The second white paper, released April 18, 2013, addresses Agricultural Sector Issues. Both white papers are clearly written, carefully documented, and provide excellent overviews of their respective topics.
The second white paper poses nine questions for public comment, and requests that responses be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 29.
Two of the questions deal with the EPA’s denial in 2012 of petitions from ten governors who, seeking to reduce corn prices and alleviate harm to their states’ livestock industries, asked the agency to waive (suspend) RFS blending requirements. I comment on those questions, which are enumerated in the white paper as follows:
3. Was EPA correct to deny the 2012 waiver request? Are there any lessons that can be drawn from the waiver denial?
4. Does the Clean Air Act provide EPA sufficient flexibility to adequately address any effects that the RFS may have on corn price spikes?
My comments develop the following points:
- The EPA should have granted the waiver but the agency’s strained reading of the Clean Air Act virtually guarantees that petitions will be denied regardless of the RFS’s contribution to severe economic harm.
- Congress should revise the statute to preclude the EPA’s deck-stacking interpretation and clarify that the threshold issue is whether, in the context of actual market conditions, the RFS makes a non-negligible contribution to severe harm. [click to continue…]
Today on National Journal’s Energy Experts Blog, I post a comment celebrating the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as a triumph of centralized economic planning. You think I’m joking? Far from it. The RFS is working at least as well as other central planning schemes!
Well, okay, the RFS would be funny if it weren’t so destructive. A new report by NERA Economic Consulting warns that the RFS is heading for a “death spiral” — a vicious circle in which rising fuel costs, declining sales, and dwindling biofuel credits make compliance increasingly “infeasible.”
In one scenario analyzed by NERA, the death spiral produces a 30% increase in gasoline prices and a 300% increase in the cost of diesel fuel in 2015. Potential adverse macroeconomic impacts include a “$770 billion decline in GDP and a corresponding reduction in consumption per household of $2,700.” Ludwig von Mises coined a term for such debacles: “Planned Chaos.” [click to continue…]
On Friday (September 23, 2011), the House passed a bill that would block two of the administration’s flagship Clean Air Act (CAA) regulations targeting coal-fired power plants. It would also establish a new Cabinet-level committee to examine the “cumulative and incremental impacts” of a dozen EPA actions affecting the electric power sector. The bill, known as the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN) Act (H.R. 2401), sponsored by Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), passed by a vote of 233-180.
The TRAIN Act declares that two EPA regulations “shall be of no force and effect”: the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), finalized in August, and maximum available control technology standards regulations for hazardous air pollutants from electric generating units (Utility MACT Rule), finalized in May. EPA would be prohibited from promulgating a new cross state air pollution rule until three years after the multi-agency committee submits its regulatory impacts report to Congress (due August 1, 2012). EPA would also be prohibited from promulgating new hazardous air pollutant regulations for electric generating units until one year after the committee submits its report. [click to continue…]
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) boasts that its greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards save more fuel than the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards – but denies that GHG standards are fuel economy standards. Huh?
Well, of course, CARB denies it, because the Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA) prohibits states from adopting laws or regulations “related to” fuel economy.
But CARB has to trumpet the fuel savings from its GHG standards to attack H.R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act. H.R. 910, says CARB, would make America more dependent on foreign oil by prohibiting CARB and EPA from adopting tougher GHG standards.
H.R. 910 opponents talk as if policymaking were a game in which the regulatory option with the biggest fuel savings wins. By that criterion, why not just let EPA and CARB impose a de facto 100 mpg CAFE standard and declare America to be “energy independent”?
If Congress thinks NHTSA’s standards don’t go far enough, there is a simple fix. Pass a law! What H.R. 910 opponents want is for EPA and CARB to legislate in lieu of Congress. That is neither lawful nor constitutional. [click to continue…]
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Action Fund commissioned a poll from a Democratic pollster finding that voters in Rep. Fred Upton’s district disapprove of the GOP congressman’s efforts to overturn EPA’s climate change regulations. Hold the presses! Man bites dog! I mean, what are the odds that a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by NRDC would reach that conclusion?
Actually, what’s surprising is that Greenwire (May 19, 2011, subscription required) would bother covering the NRDC poll as if it were news. [click to continue…]
Three of the Congress’s most influential energy policymakers this week “urged” the Environmental Protection Agency to delay an ultra-costly regulation targeted at coal-fired power plants, the source of 50 percent of America’s electricity generation. For the sake of keeping the lights on, all Americans should hope the Obama administration heeds these Congressmen’s request.
Senate Environment and Public Works Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK), House Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton (R-MI), and House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chair Ed Whitfield (R-KY) yesterday sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson demanding a longer comment period for a proposed regulation known as the Utility HAP MACT
[The HAP stands for “Hazardous Air Pollutant,” and the MACT stands for “Maximum Achievable Control Technology”; to learn what these terms entail, read this summary of the regulation, Primer: EPA’s Power Plant MACT for Hazardous Air Pollutants.]
The EPA issued the Utility HAP MACT in mid-March, and it gave the public 60 days to comment. The Congressmen “urge the agency [to] extend the comment period to a minimum of 120 days to allow adequate time for stakeholders to assess and comment on the proposal.”
The extended comment period is well warranted. For starters, the EPA included a number of “pollutants” in the proposed regulation that shouldn’t be there. The EPA’s authority to regulate hazardous air pollutants from power plants is derivative of a study on the public health effect of mercury emissions. The EPA’s proposed regulation, however, would regulate acid gases, non-mercury metals, and organic air toxins, in addition to mercury. Yet the EPA’s evidence only pertains to mercury. The EPA’s authority to regulate these non-mercury emissions, despite their not having been a part of the aforementioned study, will be challenged, and the DC Circuit Court ultimately will decide.
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Yesterday, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) mounted a tirade (Congressional Record, pp. 1955-57) against the McConnell amendment (a.k.a. S. 482, the Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act) to the small business reauthorization bill (S. 493). The amendment would stop EPA from ‘legislating’ climate policy under the guise of implementing the Clean Air Act (CAA), a statute enacted in 1970, years before global warming emerged as a public policy issue.
The Senate is expected to vote later today on S. 493, so it worthwhile examining Boxer’s speech, which opponents of the bill will undoubtedly recycle in today’s debate.
I discuss the rhetorical traps S. 482 supporters should avoid in an earlier post. Stick to your moral high ground, namely, the constitutional premise that Congress, not an administrative agency with no political accountability to the people, should make the big decisions regarding national policy. The fact that Congress remains deadlocked on climate and energy policy is a compelling reason for EPA not to ‘enact’ greenhouse gas (GHG) controls. It is not an excuse for EPA to substitute its will for that of the people’s representatives.
Okay, that said, let’s examine Boxer’s rant. It is lengthy, repetitive, and often ad homonym, so I’ll try to hit just the main points. [click to continue…]
Tomorrow, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act (S. 482) to overturn EPA’s Endangerment Rule and most of the agency’s other greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations. The bill is based on the constitutional premise that Congress, not an administrative agency with no political accountability to the people, should make the big decisions regarding national policy.
The fact that Congress remains deadlocked on climate and energy policy is a reason for EPA not to act — not an excuse for the agency to substitute its will for that of the people’s representatives.
I am a huge fan of the Inhofe-Upton bill. But even a good thing can be improved. S. 482 should be amended to preempt public nuisance litigation against GHG emitters under federal common law. Indeed, in its current form, S. 482 could actually increase the risk that the Supreme Court will empower trial lawyers and activist judges to ‘legislate’ climate policy. [click to continue…]
Today at Pajamas Media.Com, I discuss the latest stratagem of the greenhouse lobby to protect EPA’s purloined power to dictate national climate and energy policy: Sen. Max Baucus’s (D-Mont.) amendment to the small business reauthorization bill.
The Baucus amendment would essentially codify EPA’s Tailoring Rule, which exempts small greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters from Clean Air Act (CAA) permitting requirements.
That may seem innocent enough. However, if enacted, the Baucus amendment would also codify the ever-growing ensemble of EPA climate initiatives of which the Tailoring Rule is only a small piece.
EPA’s current and probable future climate regulations include GHG/fuel-economy standards for all categories of mobile sources (cars, trucks, marine vessels, aircraft, non-road vehicles and engines) and GHG/energy-efficiency standards for dozens of industrial source categories.
Congress, however, never authorized EPA to determine fuel economy standards for motor vehicles, much less dictate national policy on climate change. The Baucus amendment would put Congress’s legislative stamp of approval on EPA’s end-run around the legislative process.
The amendment has almost no chance of passing in the GOP-led House of Representatives. However, it does not need to pass to perpetuate EPA’s shocking power grab. All it has to do is peel off enough votes in the Senate to prevent passage of the Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act. That bill, which is almost certain to pass in the House, would overturn most of EPA’s current GHG regulations and stop the agency permanently from promulgating climate change policies Congress never approved.
Whether the Baucus amendment is adopted or just blocks passage of Inhofe-Upton, the U.S. economy will be exposed to the risk that EPA will be litigated into establishing national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for GHGs, and to the risk that EPA will use BACT (“best available control technology”) determinations and NSPS (New Source Performance Standards) to restrict America’s access to affordable, carbon-based energy. [click to continue…]
The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday marked up and passed H. R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, by a 34 to 19 vote. All 31 Republicans on the committee supported Chairman Fred Upton’s (R-Mich.) bill. They were joined by three Democrats—Representatives John Barrow (D-Ga.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), and Mike Ross (D-Ark.).
The mark-up started on Monday afternoon with opening statements from members of the committee and then lasted most of Tuesday. A number of amendments offered by Democrats were variations on the theme that the Congress accepts that global warming science is settled and that it’s a crisis. All these amendments were defeated easily, but, as my CEI colleague Marlo Lewis points out, Republican supporters of the bill for the most part didn’t defend the bill very well against the Democrats’ attacks.
What the proponents should argue, but did not in committee mark-up, is that H. R. 910 is not about the science or what we should do about potential global warming. The bill simply says that the EPA cannot use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions until the Congress authorizes it to do so. Chairman Upton’s bill is designed to re-assert congressional authority to make laws (which the Constitution gives Congress the sole authority to do) and rein in an out-of-control executive branch.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said that passing the Upton bill is a priority. It is now expected that the bill could be debated on the House floor as soon as the week of 27th March. On 26th June 2009, the House Democratic leadership railroaded the mammoth Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill through the House in a single day of debate with only one Republican amendment allowed to be offered. The Republican leadership under Boehner is doing things differently, so there will probably be several days of debate with numerous amendments considered. The bill should pass easily, with almost unanimous Republican and significant Democratic support.