EPA to Food Producers: Pound Sand

| December 2 2012
Christopher Cook

What do you get when you combine bureaucratic cluelessness with a burning ideological agenda? Why, the Environmental Protection Agency, of course. The agency that is known for robbing people of their land and slowly destroying entire industries is also continuing one of its other favorite hobbies—meddling in food production.

A recent move by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signaled more bad news for those in the agriculture sector using corn-based feed products, particularly poultry, beef, pork, and dairy producers. On November 17th, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson formally rejected petitions from seven states to suspend the agency’s biofuel blending requirement and, in the process, help hold down corn prices.

Under current rules, refiners are required to blend specific quantities of biofuel, consisting mostly of corn-based ethanol, into the nation’s supply of fuels. In this calendar year, for example, the target for refiners is 13.2 billion gallons; the 2013 target is 13.8 billion gallons. To reach that target, about 40% of the nation’s corn crop is being allocated to producing ethanol. Bad news for those farmers who depend on affordable corn prices to feed livestock.

Ethanol is not some sort of panacea for the environment. In fact, it may actually be a net loser, using more energy in its creation than it ever saves in its use. But the EPA is stuck to it like glue. Why? Could it be a mere matter of playing favorites, crony capitalism, and public choice theory?

Signs point to yes:

The ethanol industry applauded EPA’s decision.

Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen lauded EPA for “basing its decision on thoughtful analysis of the facts and not emotion or panic,” and said the fuel standard is working as designed.

Typical of intransigent, slow-moving, dim-witted bureaucracy, exigent circumstances mean nothing to the EPA:

“This year’s catastrophic drought seriously reduced corn yields and has lead to a situation where the RFS’ unsustainable mandates force ethanol fuel to commandeer a shrunken pool of available corn for food and livestock feed,” said Rob Green, executive director of the National Council of Chain Restaurants.

Said Michal Rosenoer, biofuels policy campaigner at Friends of the Earth: “If the worst U.S. drought in more than 50 years and skyrocketing food prices are not enough to make EPA act, it falls to Congress to provide relief from our senseless federal support for corn ethanol.”

In his book “Liberty and Tyranny,” Mark Levin refers to the concept of arbitrary tyranny. Echoing observations by Alexis de Tocqueville, he notes that as bureaucracy grows, the likelihood that its rulings will make little sense and appear maddeningly arbitrary will grow.

Case-in-point  . . .

As writer Marlo Lewis points out in a recent piece in the National Review, EPA does not hold itself to the same standard when judging its own regulations. In the instance of Greenhouse Gas Regulations for new power plants, EPA found that it does “not anticipate any notable CO2 emissions changes resulting from” the standards, concluding therefore that “there are no direct monetized climate benefits in terms of CO2 emission reductions associated with this rulemaking.”

Such hypocrisy is glaring. EPA refuses to provide relief to America’s livestock producers unless petitioners can prove the agency’s rule is the sole contributing factor leading to harm. At the same time, it begins enforcing a costly rule, built on a tenuous application of the Clean Air Act, for which EPA’s own science shows no climate benefit. The EPA, as a matter of law and logic, was wrong to reject these petitions. Protecting our food supply, as well as the men and women who help provide it, is more important than protecting a government mandate.

The EPA is, like all bureaucracies, inefficient, driven by agenda, unaccountable, and doomed to collapse. And yet they are the ones who can foist a useless, damaging rule on the food industry, and on all of us who eat food (which I think accounts for 100% of the population), and there is little that we can do about it. Enjoy your $5/lb. ground beef America . . . there may come a point soon where even that will appear inexpensive by comparison.

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