For a textbook lesson on the absurdity of the regulatory rabbit hole the Obama administration has created, look no further than the EPA. Of course, that’s an obvious statement, but when the likes of Mother Jones are even second-guessing their latest shenanigans, it’s reached a new level.
The newest bit of red tape comes in the form of requiring a four-gallon minimum purchase from consumers already feeling pain at the pump. While it would be easy to put the blame solely on the EPA’s shoulders, diving into the weeds shows that there's plenty to go around.
The mandate itself only applies to gas stations that sell so-called E15 fuel to consumers. Such fuel is “a blend of 85% gasoline and 15% ethanol,” hence the 'E15' moniker. Traditionally, consumers have used E10 fuel, which is 90% gasoline and 10% ethanol.
The rise of E15 usage has been perpetuated by the ethanol lobby and given credence by the ever-flawed Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) measure passed 5 years ago. Requiring greater use of ethanol is a continuation of government kowtowing to ethanol supporters at the taxpayers’ expense. This time it’s coming through pain at the pump instead of a check to Uncle Sam. And the flaws are apparent.
For starters, the fuel only works in cars manufactured after 2001. That presents enough problems in and of itself for many Americans, but it gets worse. Not only does it relegate decades’ worth of automobiles to the garage, E15 is also not compatible with many non-automobiles like boats and lawnmowers.
The problem is further exacerbated for retailers selling the fuel. Most gas station owners have no desire to install new E15-only pumps and have instead opted for 'blender pumps,' which mix the gasoline and ethanol based on the purchaser's selection.
These blender pumps are full of residue, to the tune of 1/3 a gallon for every gallon pumped. So if John Doe comes along next with a lawnmower needing a single gallon of E10 and the customer before him pumped E15, he could be in for more fireworks than usual while cutting grass.
Instead of solving the problem at its root by doing away with the Renewable Fuel Standards and letting market forces dictate what fuel is available, the merry band of bureaucrats at the EPA issued a mandate that any consumer buying gas at an E15 vendor, regardless of their individual need, must purchase four gallons or more. The idea here is that those purchases to the tune of four gallons and upwards renders the residual fuel amount too small to do damage.
Putting aside the fact that many of the devices not compatible with E15, such as lawnmowers and chainsaws, require nowhere near four gallons of gasoline, a mandate designed to prop up increased usage of ethanol comes at the expense of Americans’ wallets and the very environment EPA claims to protect.
Multiple studies have documented that ethanol’s negative impact on the environment far outpaces that of gasoline. The policy is a no-win scenario, and government’s backing of ethanol is an issue that both sides of the political spectrum can come to a consensus on.
Environmental and fiscal factors considered, it is clear that the Renewable Fuel Standards must be amended to take a rational, common-sense approach to encouraging use of renewables without negatively impacting the economy. Rather than issue mandates that cost taxpayers and subsidize an industry that cannot stand on its own two feet, the EPA should consider actually using its platform to advocate the 'all of the above' approach Obama claims to support.
After all, when left-wingers are starting to poke holes in an Obama administration policy, it’s clear that something has to give.