Obama ‘all-of-the-above’ plan lack­ing in en­ergy

The Washington Times Daily - - Business - BY ALAN TONEL­SON

As gaso­line prices drift higher, threat­en­ing eco­nomic growth, the White House ex­co­ri­ates Repub­li­cans for hav­ing no com­pre­hen­sive en­ergy plan while claim­ing to have an “all-ofthe-above” plan of its own. But the White House plan is noth­ing more than a full court press to reg­u­late car­bon diox­ide in di­rect re­jec­tion of com­pre­hen­sive 2007 leg­is­la­tion by a Re­pub­li­can Congress to re­duce vul­ner­a­bil­ity to in­ter­na­tional oil prices.

The 2007 leg­is­la­tion is the En­ergy In­de­pen­dence and Se­cu­rity Act (EISA) ini­ti­ated by Pres­i­dent Bush and adopted by Congress in De­cem­ber 2007, sev­eral months af­ter the Supreme Court ruled car­bon diox­ide a “pol­lu­tant” un­der the Clean Air Act.

It is EISA that is re­spon­si­ble for most of the re­cent and sub­stan­tial re­duc­tion in oil im­ports that the White House is tak­ing credit for. The prob­lem is that the White House is now in the process of nul­li­fy­ing that statute in the name of fight­ing global cli­mate change. The per­verse re­sult will be in­creased oil de­pen­dency, higher in­ner-city pol­lu­tion, and vir­tu­ally no ac­tual re­duc­tion of car­bon diox­ide emis­sions.

EPA des­per­ately wants to dis­rupt EISA’S com­pre­hen­sive, rea­soned statu­tory ap­proach — even though do­ing so will pro­duce no real re­duc­tions in car­bon diox­ide. The rea­son is sim­ple: Once EPA has reg­u­lated fuel econ­omy, it can claim that car­bon diox­ide is now a “reg­u­lated” pol­lu­tant un­der the Clean Air Act, and use this fact to ap­ply lim­it­less car­bon diox­ide reg­u­la­tions to the en­tire econ­omy.

Congress dis­rupted this EPA strat­egy by recom­mit­ting the reg­u­la­tion of fuel econ­omy in 2007 to the Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment, where it had ini­tially placed it in the orig­i­nal 1975 au­to­mo­bile fuel-econ­omy leg­is­la­tion.

A key part of EISA is a de­tailed set of in­cen­tives for clean do­mes­ti­cally pro­duced al­ter­na­tive fu­els like com­pressed nat­u­ral gas, al­co­hols, coalto-liq­uids and other com­peti­tors to gaso­line and diesel, which now dom­i­nate the trans­porta­tion fu­els dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem. The ef­fect of these in­cen­tives is to al­low do­mes­tic fu­els to re­al­ize both their non­im­por­ta­tion and lo­cal pric­ing ad­van­tages over im­ported oil as well as their ca­pac­ity to dra­mat­i­cally re­duce the ar­ti­fi­cially high cost of ur­ban pol­lu­tion con­trol.

EPA’S re­sponse was to uni­lat­er­ally repeal EISA in its own car­bon diox­ide reg­u­la­tions un­der the Clean Air Act — which logic would say had been dis­placed or pre-empted by EISA. One con­se­quence is the elim­i­na­tion of the al­ter­na­tive fuel pro­vi­sions de­signed to level the play­ing field for nonpolluting com­pet­ing fu­els with re­spect to light-duty ve­hi­cles, on top of the White House re­fusal to al­low the use of com­pressed nat­u­ral gas in­cen­tives in the fuel-econ­omy rules it is­sued last year for heavy-duty trucks.

What­ever the pres­i­dent says about his “all-ofthe above” en­ergy plan, his agen­cies are con­sis­tently block­ing com­pe­ti­tion to gaso­line and diesel.

The other ma­jor con­se­quence is to higher pol­lu­tion-con­trol costs, which would have been re­duced by nonpolluting al­ter­na­tives like com­pressed nat­u­ral gas and al­co­hols. Fuel-ef­fi­cient cars get driven more be­cause driv­ing is cheaper — this is the so-called “re­bound” ef­fect that in­creases tra­di­tional par­tic­u­late pol­lu­tion. Equally im­por­tant, the EPA rules re­quire the auto com­pa­nies to use gaso­line tech­nolo­gies that will in­crease these same pol­lu­tants, which will cost bil­lions to clean up af­ter the fact.

Cleaner al­ter­na­tive fu­els are thus im­por­tant not only be­cause they are do­mes­ti­cally pro­duced, but also be­cause they do not pro­duce deadly par­tic­u­late pol­lu­tion caused by in­creased driv­ing and new tech­nolo­gies like higher com­pres­sion un­der EPA’S rules.

The irony is that for all of this costly col­lat­eral dam­age, the EPA auto rules will likely pro­duce no car­bon diox­ide re­duc­tion be­yond what EISA al­ready di­rected the Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment to achieve. So EPA is au­tho­riz­ing it­self to reg­u­late the en­tire U.S. econ­omy with­out con­gres­sional di­rec­tion or limit solely on the ba­sis of auto car­bon diox­ide reg­u­la­tions that do not ac­tu­ally re­duce car­bon diox­ide. At the same time, the agency is re­peal­ing the all-of-the-above strat­egy the White House claims to be pro­mot­ing.

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