Press-Enabled EPA Issues New Rules Mandating Use of Fuels Which Don't Exist

The rogue collection of bureaucrats known as the Environmental Protection Agency continues its lawless ways. The establishment press continues to serve as enablers.

In January, a federal court vacated the EPA's regulations mandating the use of cellulosic biofuels which weren't produced at all until last year, and barely exist now. In response, the agency, directly defying the court, increased the production requirement of these fuels for 2013. In covering the story, as I noted at NewsBusters on January 31, the Associated Press's Matt Daly only wrote that "An oil industry representative said the Obama administration was thumbing its nose at a ruling last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia" -- as if the agency's action was only a matter of some eeeevil oil guy's opinion.


On Thursday, in a move which can only be described as both outside the law and stuck on stupid, the agency, clearly unconcerned about press blowback, issued a 53-page rule expanding the allowable sources of such fuel. On Monday, Electric Light & Power (elp.com) reported that the agency has managed to anger the energy industry and environmentalists at the same time (if this is boring you, the bolded paragraph at the end of the excerpt will wake you up):

EPA Backs New RFS Cellulosic Fuels But Rejects Fears Over GHG (Greenhouse Gas) Levels

EPA is approving a number of new feedstocks for use in producing cellulosic and other biofuels under its renewable fuel standard (RFS) program, rejecting environmentalists' claims that the agency failed to adequately ensure that the new feedstocks would not increase lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to land use and other impacts.

Biofuels industry groups say the agency's just-issued rule will help refiners comply with mandates for blending large volumes of low-carbon cellulosic-based fuel, a fuel that until now has not been produced in volumes large enough to comply with EPA's blend mandates.

“With the approval of energy cane and renewable gasoline, there are now a total of five pathways for producing cellulosic biofuels that meet the Renewable Fuel Standard volume requirements,” the Biotechnology Industry Organization said in a Feb. 25 statement. The group added that 30 companies continue to await approval of new proposals to generate qualifying cellulosic and advanced biofuels.

In a Feb. 22 final rule, EPA rejected environmentalists claims that the newly approved feedstocks are invasive species that have a higher carbon profile than other RFS-approved feedstocks. Instead, EPA determined that camelina oil and energy cane as well as crop residue-derived “renewable gasoline and renewable gasoline blendstock” can be used to meet RFS' advanced blending requirements, finding that the fuel pathways have significantly lower lifecycle GHG emissions than the gasoline or diesel fuels they replace.

Under the RFS, EPA sets annual levels of each fuel that refiners and others must blend into the nation's fuel supply in order to meet overall statutory mandates for various biofuels. If producers are not able to meet EPA's targets, the law created a system for purchasing and trading credits, which are generated when biofuels refiners produce fuels that meet GHG profiles estimated over the entire production lifecycle.

But the petroleum industry has long argued that the fact that no cellulosic biofuel -- believed to be one of the lowest carbon feedstocks -- was produced in a given year should mean that industry should not have to purchase credits for noncompliance.

"Credits for noncompliance" really means "fines." The petroleum industry can be forced to pay fines because it didn't buy a type of fueld which wasn't even produced.

The 2013 EPA mandate for the use of these virtually non-existent fuels is 14 million gallons, even though only 25,000 gallons were produced last year. In a manic effort to prove that these fuels can be produced, the agency is allowing the use of sources resulting with what environmentalists claim is a net negative environmental impact. 

The EPA has no legal authority to engage in any of this activity. All of it defies the January court ruling noted earlier. The EPA doesn't care, prompting the editorialists at Investor's Business Daily to correctly characterize the agency as "lawless" Tuesday evening.

If this weren't the seemingly sacrosanct EPA, or even if an EPA under a Republican or conservative presidential administration was engaging in anything remotely resembling this level of rogue activity, the establishment press would be all over it. But (proof here and here) they're not, effectively enabling the agency to operate above the law.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.