Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), defying a court order, mandated that petroleum companies must add 14 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol to gasoline, in spite of the fact that commercial quantities of cellulosic ethanol do not exist. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided in favor of the American Petroleum Institute, which sued the EPA, deciding that the EPA “exceeded its authority by requiring refiners to purchase cellulosic biofuel despite the fact the next-generation fuel is not commercially available.”
The Environmental Protection Agency, the home of junk science, environmental radicals, and political zealots, is active on many fronts promulgating regulations that will close down American industries, our electricity supply, and our economy. The EPA is not required by law to consider the economic consequences of its regulations. That oversight should be changed.
Let’s take a look at some of EPA’s recent actions and proposals.
The war on coal
New regulations regarding emissions of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and ozone may greatly increase the cost of electricity, cause some power plants to close, and endanger our ability to produce adequate power.
In Arizona, EPA is using alleged haze in the Grand Canyon as an excuse to target coal-fired electric plants and is particularly targeting the Navajo Generating station, near Page, AZ. EPA rejected Arizona’s proposal for modifying the plant and instead wants the plant to install “selective catalytic reduction” to control nitrogen oxides, at an added cost of $48 million per year. In spite of the additional cost, the EPA proposal will have no noticeable effect on haze as shown in my post: EPA versus Arizona on regional haze issue. This one plant supplies the electricity to run the pumps bringing water from the Colorado River to Tucson along the Central Arizona Project canal. If the plant survives and installs the mandated catalytic devices, the cost will raise our water rates (See Arizona Daily Star).
The EPA is also harassing other coal-fired plants in Arizona. The State of Arizona is suing the EPA over this issue (see here). Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said of the EPA, “”This is an absurd action that would significantly raise utility rates for most Arizonans without providing any benefit to anyone.”
In Georgia, the Georgia Power company said it will close 15 fossil-fuel-fired electric units, impacting nearly 500 jobs in the state, due to the high cost of complying with EPA regulations. In Texas, because of the EPA, Chase Power cancelled plans for a $3 billion coal-fired plant near Corpus Christi which would have employed 3,900 workers.
Biofuels and invasive species
The EPA protection of the environment apparently doesn’t apply in the realm of biofuels. The Heartland Institute reports that the EPA is proposing the introduction of two invasive grass species Arundo donax (giant reed) and Pennisetum purpureum (elephant grass), as advanced biofuel feedstock under the federal renewable fuel standard. Pennisetum purpureum is an African grass that thrives in warm climates, multiplies rapidly, and crowds out other vegetation. Arundo donax, native to India, is already a feared invasive plant well beyond the subcontinent. California, Colorado, Nevada, and Texas, classify Arundo donax as a noxious weed.
“These two species are already harmful invaders in parts of the United States and should not be incentivized for biofuel use,” said Doria Gordon, director of conservation for Nature Conservancy Florida. “Both species can become so dominant that they crowd out native species and alter habitats.” A group of more than 200 scientists have sent a letter to EPA warning them of the danger and unintended consequences of this proposed action.
Maybe the EPA wants the invasive species because its mandate for use of non-corn, cellulosic (plant waste) ethanol has not been realistic. Use of cellulosic ethanol, made with crop residue, grasses or wood chips, is a provision of the 2007 Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) enacted by Congress. In 2012, EPA mandated that 8.7 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol be blended into gasoline. However, the ethanol industry was able to produce only about 20,000 gallons in 2012. Even though is was impossible to comply with the EPA mandate, the EPA none-the-less fined gasoline producers for compliance failure and will require they use 14 million gallons in 2013.
Ethanol and your automobile
There is more trouble with ethanol. Currently, gasoline is blended with 10% ethanol to supposedly curb air pollution. Now the EPA wants to increase that to 15%. However, the American Automobile Association (AAA) warns that use of E15 as the new blend is called, will damage the engines of most vehicles on the road.
“The number of vehicles approved to use E15 – only about 12 million out of the more than 240 million light-duty vehicles – is limited, while the use of the fuel blend in non-approved vehicles can compromise a vehicle’s warranty:
“Less than 5 percent of cars on the road are approved by automakers to use E15. Approved vehicles include flex-fuel models, 2001 model-year and newer Porsches, 2012 model-year and newer GM vehicles and 2013 model-year Ford vehicles.
“Five manufacturers (BMW, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen) say their warranties will not cover fuel-related claims caused by the use of E15.
“Seven additional automakers (Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo) have stated that the use of E15 does not comply with the fuel requirements specified in their owner’s manuals and may void warranty coverage.”
“AAA automotive engineering experts believe that sustained use of E15 in both newer and older vehicles could result in significant problems such as accelerated engine wear and failure, fuel-system damage and false ‘check engine’ lights for any vehicle not approved by its manufacturer to use E15.”
Burning food for fuel
Ethanol mandates are essentially burning food for fuel. Even the New York Times has noticed some unintended consequences:
“Recent laws in the United States and Europe that mandate the increasing use of biofuel in cars have had far-flung ripple effects, economists say, as land once devoted to growing food for humans is now sometimes more profitably used for churning out vehicle fuel.”
“With its corn-based diet and proximity to the United States, Central America has long been vulnerable to economic riptides related to the United States’ corn policy. Now that the United States is using 40 percent of its crop to make biofuel, it is not surprising that tortilla prices have doubled in Guatemala, which imports nearly half of its corn.”
“In a country where most families must spend about two thirds of their income on food, ‘the average Guatemalan is now hungrier because of biofuel development,’ said Katja Winkler, a researcher at Idear, a Guatemalan nonprofit organization that studies rural issues. Roughly 50 percent of the nation’s children are chronically malnourished, the fourth-highest rate in the world, according to the United Nations.”
Soot and Dust and illegal human testing
Another EPA campaign is about fine particulate matter in the air, soot and dust, the so-called PM2.5 standard, which the EPA sets at 35 millionths of a gram (micrograms) in a 24-hour period. Most air in the U.S. averages about 10 micrograms.
According to a story by Steve Milloy in the Washington Times, Outgoing EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson testified about PM2.5 before Congress in September 2011: “Particulate matter causes premature death. It doesn’t make you sick. It is directly causal to you dying sooner than you should.” “In scientific documents, the EPA has repeatedly concluded that any exposure to PM2.5 can kill, and it can kill people within hours or days of inhalation.” How does the EPA know? It conducted illegal human testing.
But, Milloy asks, if the particulate matter is so dangerous, where are the bodies? He was referring to recent air pollution in China: “Beijing’s PM2.5 levels peaked at 886 micrograms per cubic meter — an incredible 89 times greater than the U.S. daily average. Based on EPA risk estimates, we should expect the daily death toll in Beijing to have skyrocketed by 89 percent on a same-day and next-day basis.” Yet there have been no reports of a spike in deaths caused by breathing the heavily polluted air. Has the EPA has been exaggerating the danger?
Tucson doctor Jane Orient, in a Wall Street Journal article, “EPA Science Is the ‘New Homeopathy,’ Doctors State,” says:
The “evidence” for the harm is very weak correlations seen in epidemiologic studies done in 1993 and 1995. Findings are contradicted by other studies. The EPA is now apparently trying to prove harm by subjecting human subjects to diesel exhaust in an apparatus some say resembles a gas chamber.
“Either the EPA is lying to Congress about the lethality of PM2.5, or it is engaged in illegal and unethical human experiments, subjecting vulnerable patients to a substance it believes could kill them instantly,” states Jane Orient, M.D., president of Physicians for Civil Defense.
EPA colluding with radical greens
On another front, we see that the EPA (and other government agencies) are colluding with radical environmental groups.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is warning of more secret “sue and settle” deals with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and environmental groups. In a letter today, Vitter encourages Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to join the 13 states’ AGs who recently filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with EPA asking for any and all correspondence between EPA and a list of 80 environmental, labor union and public interest organizations that had been party to litigation since the start of the Obama Administration.
“The collusion between federal bureaucrats and far-left environmental organizations entering legal agreements under a shroud of secrecy is the opposite of a transparent government,” Vitter said. “This is a problem across the country, but could quickly become a threat to Louisianans if we see the full weight of the EPA and Fish and Wildlife Service come crashing down on private landowners.”
EPA regulations are costly:
A recent study commissioned by the National Association of Manufacturers critically assessed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s cost- benefit analysis with respect to six key regulations: Utility MACT, Boiler MACT, Coal Combustion Residuals, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, Cooling Water Intake Structures, and Ground-Level Ozone. The NAM study details the significant differences between EPA’s cost estimates and those of industry sources, while highlighting problems and inconsistencies with EPA’s methodology. Most importantly for manufacturers, the study estimates the impact of EPA rules on the manufacturing industry, directly and through indirect macroeconomic effects.
A key finding of the report is that “the annual compliance costs for all six regulations range from $36 billion to $111.2 billion (by EPA estimates) and from $63.2 billion to $138.2 billion (by industry estimates).” Notably, the study was picked up in the trade press and recognized by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which reiterated the study’s finding that “major new EPA rules could cost manufacturers hundreds of billions of dollars and eliminate millions of American jobs.” (MasterResource)
Pretending that carbon dioxide is a pollutant
Of course, the biggest EPA stick is its “endangerment finding” contending that carbon dioxide emissions pose some danger in spite of there being no physical evidence to support that contention. The EPA violated both the scientific method and the Scientific Advisory Board statute intended to enforce the scientific method when it made its highly influential scientific assessment in the Endangerment Finding. That the endangerment finding is purely political is shown by the fact that the EPA is getting all worked up about carbon dioxide levels of around 400ppm. But submarine crews work efficiently in carbon dioxide levels over10,000ppm. A group of scientists is challenging the EPA’s endangerment finding.
The EPA has long been a rogue, radical agency, and a very expensive one at that. They seem incapable of exercising common-sense and are now merely an unscientific political tool. Proper environmental protection is important and desirable, but we are not getting it from the EPA. It is time to defund the EPA.