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January 22, 2016

What’s More Dangerous Than VW Emissions? The EPA

Its own study reveals a double standard.

Remember the Volkswagen emissions scandal? It’s evaded the headlines of late, but last fall the auto manufacture was busted for installing software in its diesel-fueled vehicles designed to skirt environmental tests. VW is facing billions of dollars in fines as a result along with a scolding from EPA officials — which is rather ironic, observes Robert Bryce, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Here’s why. Writing in Bloomberg View, Bryce says, “The vehicles in question produced 10 to 40 times more nitrogen oxides than the law allowed. And those increased emissions will cause about 60 premature deaths a year in the U.S., according to a study by researchers at MIT and Harvard University.”

However, five years ago the EPA conducted its own study on the Renewable Fuel Standard, a law that forces refiners to combine ethanol with gasoline. According to Bryce, “Ethanol-blended fuel also increases ‘emissions of hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and other pollutants,’ the EPA found, and that will ‘lead to increases in population-weighted annual average ambient PM [particulate matter] and ozone concentrations, which in turn are anticipated to lead to up to 245 cases of adult premature mortality.’” Do the math. The ethanol mandate is far more lethal.

That raises two questions. First, why is the EPA exempt from its own standards? Bryce points out that late last year the EPA “actually increased the amount of ethanol that must be blended into domestic fuel supplies each year by more than 1 billion gallons” despite the science that’s clearly against it. The reason the agency gets away with it, however, is because there is virtually no accountability in government; in other words, laws are for the little people. Secondly, why are some presidential candidates — including Republicans — continuing to support this failed experiment? Bryce has a simple answer: “The reason for their fealty to Big Corn is obvious: No presidential candidate has ever won the Iowa caucuses while opposing corn ethanol.”

What VW did was wrong, even if the standards it has to meet are absurd. But, concludes Bryce, “If the federal government is going to fine Volkswagen billions of dollars for knowingly increasing air pollution, it should take similar action against the corn ethanol industry. Better yet, the EPA should eliminate the ethanol mandate.” That starts by nominating someone who will stand against the ethanol lobby.

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