American Elephants

The Court Slaps Down the EPA Once Again. by The Elephant's Child

Once again, the courts have slapped down the EPA for exceeding its authority. The EPA in 2012 forced refineries to purchase more than $8 million in credits for 8.65 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel. However none of the biofuel is currently available. The court added that the cellulosic biofuels program was punishing refiners for the failure of fuel producers to make enough biofuel to meet the EPA mandate.

You have to use it anyway, even if it doesn’t exist, and if you don’t we will fine you because nobody made any. That one should never have emerged from the bowels of the EPA, let alone be made public. At least the court can follow simple logic, even if the agency cannot.

Here, by contrast, EPA applies the pressure to one industry (the refiners), yet it is another (the producers of cellulosic biofuel) that enjoys the requisite expertise, plant, capital and ultimate opportunity for profit,” reads the decision. “Apart from their role as captive consumers, the refiners are in no position to ensure, or even contribute to, growth in the cellulosic biofuel industry.”

“‘Do a good job, cellulosic fuel producers. If you fail, we’ll fine your customers,’” the decision says.

Unfortunately the court’s ruling did not strike down EPA mandates for refiners to use other renewable fuels like ethanol and biodiesel added into gasoline.

Two steps forward, and one step back. The EPA’s renewable fuels program is unworkable and must be scrapped. Corn ethanol is affecting the food supply and food prices unnecessarily, and damaging engines as well. Good luck with your gas-powered engines that are in something other than the most recent cars.

CO2 is not causing global warming, and the globe isn’t warming. Hasn’t been for over 16 years. There has been no  warming in the 21st century and the climate is predicted to continue cooling for at least another five years.

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I’m only sorry that the EPA hadn’t mandated “fairy dust”. Even the most mentally challenged liberal (is that redundant) would have seen the obvious absurdity.


Comment by Jim Yardley

@Jim: most people that I know who you would characterize as “liberal” saw the absurdity of the U.S. biofuel policy a long time ago. Indeed, it is “liberals” (at NGOs such as Friends of the Earth and the Environmental Working Group), allied with ranchers and food processers, that have led the fight against biofuel policies.

As everybody, especially conservatives, should know is that biofuel policy is above all else a bipartisan rural and agricultural policy, led by Midwest politicians of both political stripes, joined by a few from states like Washington who can smell federal money for “advanced” biofuels, based on oilseeds or tree scraps, from thousands of miles away.

Obama, and his Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, come from Illinois and Iowa, respectively — the nation’s top two corn and soy producing states. The head of the EPA knows on which side his or her bread is buttered, and so goes along with the program. (Civil Servants under the EPA Administrator are generally less enamored of the policy.)

I’m not easily surprised by lunacy associated with biofuel policy, but this latest development takes the cake: in defiance of the court ruling, the EPA has raised the 2013 blending quota for cellulosic biofuel by 5.3 million gallons, to 14 million gallons, even though production of the fuel was near zero in 2012.

And you wonder why I make such a big deal about biofuel policy. This is government at its worst.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

There is no biofuel. Even the court acknowledged that. None. Can’t mandate nonexistent fuel. But the administration has decided that it need not respond to the court, for the One is more important than any old court.

I keep harking back to Richard Epstein’s keen observation of Barack Obama at U. Chicago. He said Obama had no respect for the separation of powers. Epstein was not rude, said Obama was quite a charming fellow, and described him with a scalpel. I’ve found his careful observation to ring true throughout the first term, and starting on this one. If you need a refresher, enter “A High Energy Conversation With Richard Epstein”in the search function on the left side of the main page over Bob Hope.

Obama is currently trying to bully his way with nominations, health care court cases, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and the EPA is in all sorts of trouble with the Richard Windsor email illegality. It has been a completely lawless administration, but people have such respect for the office of the presidency that they are not being as tough as the situation demands. The Obama Media cult is not performing the duty of the press as administration watchdogs, nor even asking difficult questions. Fox is essentially banned, Anyone who disagrees with Obama is charged with being racist. A majority of Americans feel that their rights and freedoms are not safe. It’s a difficult time.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

There certainly is biofuel — too much of it! — in the form of corn-based ethanol and soybean-oil-based biodiesel. What there is very little of, and at times none, is biofuel made from cellulosic feedstocks.

You might find this article, by a blogger for the Rocky Mountain Institute (a group whose technological optimism would make even readers of Popular Science blush) inadvertently provides some interesting insight into the minds of some of the groups who have been behind the “advanced” biofuel mandate. (Note, please, the writer’s anger with “the mainstream environmental movement” over its skepticism.) A quote:

The EPA’s aforementioned decision to lower blending limits because the volume wasn’t available undermines the purpose of the limits. Why would oil companies contribute plant construction capital to meet a mandate if the EPA continually minimizes the mandate by lowering the blending requirement?

… While continued scientific inquiry is good, the expectation that today’s learnings should change regulatory programs immediately—providing little to no certainty for investors nor time to fully vet the new scientific conclusions—can be disastrous to financing.

Sorry, Mr. Seif, but you have the argument bass-ackwards. It was the subsidies and mandates that came first, not the scientific research into the environmental effects, which should have come first. It was Congress that moved too hastily, not the environmental skeptics.

Unfortunately, the RMI’s lead guru, Amory Lovins, has tremendous influence among the Obamas (and Clintons). So they go in for this kind of thinking (forcing a technology by strong-arming Big Oil to invest in it).

I don’t, in case you were wondering.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

From an article in the Washington Post

The [EPA]’s new projection of 14 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol matches the amount that venture capital investor Vinod Khosla, in an interview in October, said would be produced this year at a small commercial plant in Mississippi by Kior, a company he is backing. Another company, Ineos, expects to produce some, too. And POET, one of the world’s largest corn-based ethanol producers, is constructing a cellulosic-based plant that might be done this year.

But the oil industry, which runs the nation’s refineries, says that even the new standard is arbitrary and optimistic. And the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration has forecast nationwide production of just 9.6 million gallons.

Oh, and by the way, Vinod Khosla is, in his own words, “a lifelong registered Republican … a free-market person.”

So is Jeff Broin, CEO of POET.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Well, goodness, can’t let our politics get in the way of making a buck. If they actually produce any. And it is to no purpose, no purpose at all. Ethanol is really damaging the food chain, and it certainly makes big bucks for Midwest farmers. The shining goal at the end of cellulosic ethanol and corn ethanol projects is supposedly preventing the CO2 from the use of fossil fuels from becoming part of the greenhouse gasses and causing more catastrophic global warming. But the CO2 is increasing, and the planet has been cooling for seventeen years. The Japanese, and I think, the Norwegians have studied NASA and NOAA temperature claims and found them faulty. I’d have to go back and find the articles again, but has all the latest research.

Oh Armory Lovins indeed. “The expectation that today’s learnings should change regulatory programs immediately — providing no certainty for investors nor time to fully vet the new scientific conclusions” Well my goodness, why should learning that the whole thing is crapola cause any regulators to cause Obama buddies to lose money! Perish the thought.

The thing that really fries me is seeing AlGore make another $100 million for allowing Al-Jazeera a foothold for broadcasting their poison in this country. He’s on his book tour and they are advertising a great Valentine’s Day gift would be tickets to his speech here on Valentine’s Day. This is Seattle, he’ll probably get a sold out audience. He should be in jail for all the damage he’s done.

I operate on the assumption that the biofuel mandate does not refer to corn ethanol which is already mandated elsewhere, is this incorrect?


Comment by The Elephant's Child

“I operate on the assumption that the biofuel mandate does not refer to corn ethanol which is already mandated elsewhere, is this incorrect?”

Yes, in essence. There is a total mandate for “renewable” (ha!) fuels, with various sub-mandates, such as the one for “advanced” renewable fuel. The way the quotas are expressed, they don’t like to separately identify corn ethanol, but it is essentially the (huge) residual between the total mandate and the various sub-mandates.

I don’t have time to get into a debate with you over climate change. That would be a full-time job.

Let’s just agree to agree that the biofuel mandates and subsidies are horrible.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Did you read the post “Everything you Wanted to know about climate change…” scroll down just a bit, and be sure to read the post by Bob Carter linked there.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

Sorry, I thought you asked “Is that correct?”, to which the answer is “Yes”

If the question is “Is that incorrect?”, the answer is “No.”


Comment by Subsidy Eye

A friend of mine contacted the author of the Washington Post article who confirmed that the EPA’s new projection of 14 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol matches the amount that Vinod Khosla, in an interview last October, said would be produced this year at a small commercial plant in Mississippi by Kior, a company he is backing.

My friend notes that, less well known is that the EPA’s 2010 mandate for cellulosic ethanol of 100 million gallons was also based on Khosla’s over-promises: the vast majority of that expected production was to come from Range Fuels and Cello — both backed by Khosla.

When is someone is going to hold this guy personally accountable instead of fining refiners when his investments (often heavily subsidized by the federal government) fall short?

By the way, as I keep trying to point out, the climate-change rationale for biofuels long ago got demoted below that of “energy security” or “energy independence” and “increasing rural employment”. The former in particular is the flag that people like Khosla and Broin wave in front of politicians, especially those scared of not passing the “patriot” litmus test.

This kind of corruption infects adherents to both major political parties. Attacking corporate welfare should be one area in which honest Democrats and Republicans can find common cause.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Of course, Subsidy. The Obama administration practices Chicago politics which is as corrupt as can be. I don’t know who believes in global warming, I suspect that the president actually does and envisions himself as the potential savior of the planet — truly deserving of that Nobel Peace Prize. But as long as you’re going to be giving away ‘government’ money, it might as well go to those who significantly supported your campaigns. Circular back-scratching. Chicago is where he learned about politics, and was the most skillful Alinsky student his teachers had ever had. There is a reason why so many Chicago politicians and Illinois governors have gone to jail.

But global warming is the excuse for everything. The Threat of global warming, the rise of the oceans, unfrozen arctic, endangered species — particularly polar bears, is taught from primary school on. It’s way more fun for teachers to have their kids researching polar bears than doing boring old basic math drill. Surrounded by an aura of saving the planet, Obama is briskly trying to destroy the coal industry. He promised to bankrupt them, and he means to do it. That’s 500 years of cheap electricity to power industrial growth and massive servers. Our economy has prospered on cheap abundant energy. (If you have not read John Steele Gordon”s An Empire of Wealth I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s an exciting read) I’m convinced that Obama, at least, is a true believer in alternative energy, and that he believes that it will make him a transcendent president. He does so want to be special. When is someone going to hold Khosla accountable? Not going to happen unless he significantly breaks the law. Nobody has ever heard of him. Look at what AlGore is getting away with.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

Again, you are missing a big piece of the equation. Khosla is a donor to both parties, and Jeff Broin is a big donor to the Republicans. Republicans don’t care so much about climate change, but many salute whenever a boondoggle is labeled as enhancing energy security, which is the button that prople like Khosla and Broin like to push.

Also, the money that was poured into their biofuel ventures — in the form of DOE and USDA grants and loan guarantees — goes back to the Bush Administration. We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars each. Solyndra was a failure, but so was Range Fuel’s wood-to-ethanol plant in Georgia.

And who’s the loony here?

On January 23, 2007, President Bush proposed mandate for 35 billion US gallons of ethanol by 2017. Because of the limits on producing ethanol from corn starch, this implied a proposed mandate to produce some 20 billion US gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol by 2017.

Bush’s proposed plan included $2 billion funding for cellulosic ethanol plants, with an additional $1.6 billion announced by the USDA on January 27, 2007.

In March 2007, the US government awarded $385 million in grants aimed at jump-starting ethanol production from nontraditional sources like wood chips, switchgrass and citrus peels.

In July 2007 Khosla’s Range Fuels announced that it had been awarded a construction permit from the state of Georgia to build the first commercial-scale 100-million-US-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant in the US. Construction began in November of that year.

The Range Fuels plant was eventually built, but was shut down in January 2011 without ever having produced any ethanol. It had received a $76 million grant from the US Dept of Energy, plus $6 million from the State of Georgia, plus an $80 million loan guaranteed by the U.S. Biorefinery Assistance Program.

Problem for the EPA is that it was Congress that established the original idea of a quota for cellulosic ethanol, in December 2007. And President Bush signed the law with fanfare. Do you know what levels they set the quotas at?

2010 … 100 million gallons,
2011 … 250 million gallons
2012 … 500 million gallons
2013 … 1000 million gallons
2014 … 1750 million gallons
2015 … 3000 million gallons
2016 … 4250 million gallons


In being given the the job (by Congress) to enforce the RFS2, the EPA has found itself between a rock and a hard place. I’m not defending them, but every time they have tried to interject some reality into this business, Congress (both Democrats and Republicans) have jumped down their throats, threatening to slash their budget. So they’re pretty much bound to set the quota at what the biofuel industry says they’ll be able to produce during the year. Problem is, the industry shares none of the risk for being over-optimistic. Instead, the risk falls fully on the oil companies.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

I know Bush was all enthusiastic about switchgrass, and enthusiastically supported the biofuel scam. The whole global warming thing has been a scam from the beginning. The IPCC was organized at the UN by Maurice strong as a vehicle to promote global warming in an effort to put the UN in charge of world governance eventually. He got caught up in the oil for food mess, and decamped to China to escape prosecution.

Rachel Carson was wrong. There were the Peak Oil people and the Population Bomb people, and when the Soviet Union collapsed, the die-hard communists moved to the environmental movement as the best thing they had going to accomplish their goals. The computer climate models were based on what was known about climate (which was very little) and lots and lots of guesswork. When tested, they could not even come up with the present day climate correctly.

The environmental zealots went after the religious in an effort to get them on the basis of God assigning them as caretakers of the earth. And innumerable people have seen a way to make a significant fortune out of the whole energy/renewable fuels/ wind and solar/electric car/ ethanol/ biofuel enormous fairy tale mess. Lots of crooked dealings (Khosla, Gore, Strong etc), environmental zealots (Bill McKibben, Sea Shepards, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, NRDC. Grist). The great bubble has been blown up by zealots who claimed it was necessary to “reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” or were convinced the earth was overheating, or thought man was destroying the environment, destroying the seas, causing more hurricanes, deformed frogs, whatever.

AlGore started off with a true belief in global warming apparently brought on by his son’s accident? He managed to make a considerable fortune out of his books and slideshow, but if he believed the seas were rising, he bought a waterfront condo in San Francisco, and an energy hog of a mansion in Tennessee. I don’t begin to know all the players, but they managed to scare governments around the world into a belief that they had to do something to save the planet.
Everything flowed from that. Lots of corruption, dumb laws, false technologies, dead-end streets. And it’s all coming apart because it was all a bubble like the Tulip craze. And although it is over, disproved. it will be a long time before governments find out or admit they were taken in. What government wants to admit they were had, and wasted the people’s money and destroyed economies for nothing, nothing at all.

I’m not sure what big piece of the equation I’m missing. I’m aware of Range Fuels, I know Khosla is making, or trying to make big bucks off the whole thing. That’s what happens with these big bubbles (for want of a better word) There are lots of people from both parties to blame, with varying degrees of true belief and self-interest. The EPA is a crooked agency, and has been so from the beginning. They are responsible for the death of millions of children in the first world from preventable malaria, because the EPA banned DDT. Carol Browner was a crook, Lisa Jackson was a crook, and whoever succeeds her will be a crook. The agency should be abolished. Yes, congress has made stupid laws; yes, congressmen have supported corn ethanol because of their farmer constituents. That’s what congressmen do because they want to get reelected. The only way I know to stop it is to keep pointing out the scam.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

Good overview here:


Comment by Subsidy Eye

They [the EPA] are responsible for the death of millions of children in the first world from preventable malaria, because the EPA banned DDT.

Actually, it wasn’t like that. Concerns about the effects of DDT on the environment were already being raised in the 1950s — long before the EPA came into existence, and some restrictions began to be imposed on its use in the latter part of that decade.

The year after the publication of appeared, President Kennedy ordered his Science Advisory Committee to investigate Carson’s claims. The Committee final report “add[ed] up to a fairly thorough-going vindication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring thesis,” in the words of the journal Science, and recommended a phaseout of “persistent toxic pesticides” such as DDT.

Are you old enough to remember the general sentiment of the public then? I am. DDT bio-concentrates, and so collects in the tissues of birds like the American Bald Eagle and the California Condor. The result is egg shells that are too thin. Protecting these iconic birds was IMMENSELY popular at the time.

Rachel Carson did not call for the complete banning of DDT, by the way, but advised against large-scale, indiscriminate spraying. Mosquito resistance to DDT was already being observed. So to claim that the restrictions placed on the use of DDT have “resulted in the deaths of millions of children in the first world from preventable malaria” (I presume you mean third world), without considering the counter-factual — the almost certain development of DDT-resistant strains that would have occurred — is simply unscientific. In any case, DDT was not banned worldwide, but only as a broad-spectrum insecticide in farming (enforced mainly through zero residue limits on imported produce). Resistance was largely fueled by such unrestricted agricultural use. Indeed, one later study, published in Science in 1981, found that the lives saved by banning agricultural use (and thereby slowing the development of resistance), “can be estimated that at current rates each kilo of insecticide added to the environment will generate 105 new cases of malaria.”

True, many governments (mainly ones without malaria-carrying mosquitos) did restrict or curtail the use of DDT in disease-vector control as well as in agriculture. But not all did. And, in 2006, the WHO reversed its longstanding policy against DDT by recommending that it be used as an indoor pesticide in regions where malaria is a major problem.

But back to the history. The EPA did not take it on itself to de-register DDT, but in 1971 it was ordered to by the U.S. District Court of Appeals. After an initial six-month review process, William Ruckelshaus, the Agency’s first Administrator (appointed by Nixon) rejected an immediate suspension of DDT’s registration, citing studies from the EPA’s own internal staff (carry-overs from the USDA) that found that DDT was not an imminent danger to human health.

The EPA then held seven months of hearings in 1971–1972, with scientists giving evidence both for and against the use of DDT. In the summer of 1972, Mr. Ruckelshaus announced the cancellation of most uses of DDT. However, an exemption was allowed for public health uses under some conditions.

Yet more litigation followed. Finally, in 1973, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the EPA had acted properly in banning DDT.

DDT was subsequently banned for agricultural use worldwide under the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), but DDT’s limited use in disease vector control continues to this day.

But who cares about the details of history, eh? It is a much more rousing soundbite to say simply that Rachel Carson called for the total banning of DDT for all uses, that the EPA led the charge, and millions of dead babies have been the result.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

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