One of the problems with the regulatory state – one of the myriad reasons so many are worried about its growth – is the many opportunities for chicanery. An executive branch, or just agency employees with their own agenda, can tip the scales in favor of a preferred outcome, with little debate or accountability.
To many, it has long appeared that the federal Environmental Protection Agency tips the scales in favor of corn ethanol. Many doubts remain about the environmental benefits of ethanol. The EPA doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to further explore those doubts.
That’s the conclusion the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General reached. Its latest report dings the EPA for not issuing studies and reports on the ethanol mandate’s environmental impacts. Those reports are required by law, but the agency seems to think they’re optional.
As The Hill points out, “The OIG report issued Thursday is the latest development in the years-long debate over whether biofuels, and the federal requirement to use them, are worse for the environment than traditional fossil fuels.”
The sunny projections about ethanol simply have not panned out. Cellulosic ethanol, despite the predictions, is a long way off from mass production. Many environmentalists are also questioning the wisdom of converting farmland, and creating new farmland, for ethanol production. Using that much corn for fuel also drives food prices higher.
Most importantly, a growing number of people doubt whether ethanol will ever make environmental sense. The New York Times, summarizing a World Resources Institute report last year, wrote, “Turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand.”
That’s why the EPA ignoring its duty to study the issues surrounding ethanol is so troubling. The agency says the science for evaluating the full-cycle impacts of ethanol hasn’t advanced enough since its last report in 2010. To skeptics, it looks more like a willful wasting of time.