A Free-Market Energy Blog


Posts from December 0

Stunningly Trivial Emission Reductions from the Renewable Fuel Standard Program: More MAGICC–this time from EPA

By <a class="post-author" href="/about#mlewis">Marlo Lewis</a> -- May 8, 2009

On May 5, 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson signed a proposed rule to implement changes in the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program required by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA).

Congress created the RFS–commonly known as the ethanol mandate–in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The leading rationale then was energy security. It was supposed to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. EISA increased the size of the mandate from 7.5 billion gallons a year in 2012 to 36 billion gallons a year in 2022.

In addition, EISA established greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction standards that fuels must meet in order to qualify as “renewable.” Arguably, this was the first regulatory global warming policy that Congress ever enacted. Well, how much global warming will it avert? Answer: Too little for scientists to detect even if the new mandates are enforced throughout the 21st century.…

Mandated Flex-fuel Technology: Throwing Bad Regulation After Bad

By <a class="post-author" href="/about#mlewis">Marlo Lewis</a> -- May 4, 2009

One dumb government intervention in energy markets typically begets another, as special interests lobby to counteract the unintended (although not unforeseen) consequences of some previous intervention they championed. The federal ethanol mandate, also known as the renewable fuel standard (RFS), provides a recent example.

Thanks to this Soviet-style production quota system, which Congress created in 2005 and expanded in 2007, daily corn ethanol production in February increased by about 17,000 barrels to 647,000 barrels per day, despite weak motor-fuel demand and poor to negative profit margins for ethanol producers

Unsurprisingly, inventories of unsold ethanol increased by 1.5 million barrels in February and about 20% of new capacity added last year is idle. An ethanol glut is one of the factors that have bankrupted several ethanol companies. Other factors include high feedstock (corn) prices in 2008–itself a consequence of the mandate—and the collapse of crude oil and gasoline prices in 2009.…