The Corner

Imagination Adventures with the EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency has ignored a ruling from a federal appeals court by once again issuing a cellulosic biofuels mandate that’s literally impossible for refiners to reach.

Last week, a court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped its authority when it ordered refiners to purchase more cellulosic biofuel than was actually in existence.

As I noted, the U.S. managed to produce only 20,069 gallons of cellulosic biofuel, which is made from non-edible plant parts, in 2012. And the entire supply was sent to Rio so climate-change conference attendees could feel good about their green transportation.

Nonetheless, the EPA told U.S. refiners to buy 8.7 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel. That was, of course, impossible.

When refiners inevitably fail to comply, they face a steep cost. In 2011, they had to pay $6.8 million to buy exemptions. For 2011, it would have been closer to $8 million, had the court not intervened.

If that situation sounds unreasonable to you, you’re not alone. Last month, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals censured the EPA for “an unreasonable exercise of agency discretion,” telling it to base its mandates on realistic production projections rather than wishful thinking.

The EPA has since engaged in another imaginative exercise: pretending the courts don’t exist. It promptly issued a 2013 mandate that’s even more unrealistic than the previous one.

Next year, refiners will be forced to “buy” 14 million gallons of nonexistent cellulosic biofuel. Perhaps we should be thankful the EPA doesn’t want them delivered by unicorn.

Most Popular


The Metropolitan Museum of Art Defaces Its Façade

The facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, designed by Richard Morris Hunt in 1902, contains four large niches that might display sculpture but have traditionally been left empty. This was prudent good taste on the Met's part, since sculpture on buildings is a tricky business that few artists in our age of ... Read More