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EPA in Wonderland
Team Obama fines oil companies for not using a fantasy fuel.


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Deroy Murdock

Why does America’s economy feel like an SUV that is running on fumes? The Obama administration’s laughably rigid enforcement of a Baby Bush–era ethanol mandate typifies today’s regulatory climate. When Uncle Sam governs with a tire iron in his hand, U.S. companies wisely pull off the road and pray for new management.

The Environmental Protection Agency has slapped a $6.8 million penalty on oil refiners for not blending cellulosic ethanol into gasoline, jet fuel, and other products. These dastardly petroleum-mongers are being so intransigent because cellulosic ethanol does not exist. It remains a fantasy fuel. EPA might as well mandate that Exxon hire leprechauns.

As the nearby screen shot of EPA’s relevant website confirms, so far this year — as in 201l — the supply of cellulosic biofuel in gallons totals zero.

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“EPA’s decision is arbitrary and capricious,” said Charles Drevna, president of American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the Washington-based oil-refining-industry association. “We fail to understand how EPA can maintain a requirement to purchase a type of fuel that simply doesn’t exist.”

“We’ll fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips and stalks or switchgrass,” President George W. Bush said in his 2006 State of the Union address. “Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years.”

So, in 2007, Bush idiotically signed the Energy Independence and Security Act. Beyond prohibiting Thomas Edison’s groundbreaking incandescent light bulb by 2014, EISA’s Renewable Fuel Standard mandated cellulosic ethanol. Under the RFS, refiners had to blend 6.6 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2011. Although this substance is not extant, EPA then demanded to see 31 percent more of it. This year’s quota is 8.65 million gallons.

EPA still expects cellulosic ethanol to leap magically from test tubes into storage tanks. While EPA has lowered its original targets as each year rolls around (e.g., 2012’s “volumetric requirements” began at 500 million gallons), its compulsory quantities remain enormous for the next 10 years:

Presidents Bush and Obama have pumped some $1.5 billion in grants and guarantees into converting cellulosic ethanol from dream into reality. As Thomas Pyle of the Institute for Energy Research reports, Team Obama handed a $105 million loan guarantee to POET, “the world’s largest ethanol producer,” to create cellulosic fuel. Last September, Abengoa Energy scored a $134 million loan to build a Kansas cellulosic factory. Last August, Obama gave the Navy $510 million to develop biofuels for the U.S. armed forces.



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