Regulatory Commissars

Mileage Standards and Biofuels Are Both Terrible

These top-down government mandates override the free market and should be scrapped.

Lewis Morris · Jun. 11, 2019

The Trump administration is set to make major changes to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that govern what automakers produce and undoing yet another Obama-era power grab. Barack Obama elected to raise fleet CAFE standards to 54 miles per gallon by 2025. It was a mark that the automotive industry fears it could not reach in time and still stay in business.

Thankfully, the Trump administration is about to put a freeze on those requirements, setting the fuel-economy standard at 2020 levels through 2025. The change would also revoke California’s waiver to set its own fuel economy standard under the Clean Air Act. This rule has been in place for decades, but it came to the nation’s attention when California essentially set the fuel-economy standard for the country during the Obama years.

A protracted legal battle between California and the Trump administration is assured if a deal cannot be worked out on a common fuel standard that suits both parties. Meanwhile, 17 automakers sent a letter to Trump to create one national fuel standard and not go to war with California. An extended court case would put car companies in regulatory limbo until matters are sorted out.

On a side note, Government Motors (GM) shareholders sent a letter to CEO Mary Barra stating that they want the automaker to hold firm to the California model. Never forget that this is the company bailed out by government largess “repaid” with leftist board of director appointments and transfers of voting stock.

At this point, there doesn’t look to be any forthcoming deal between California and the White House.

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. Hot on the heels of the Trump administration’s wrong-headed expansion of ethanol usage comes news that further proves why the president is acting on the wrong side of this issue.

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) first came about in 2005 as an attempted end run around the free market by forcing drivers to buy biofuels that nobody would otherwise touch. Biofuels have been government subsidized and sycophantically supported by the Left ever since. Despite reasoned scientific study that pointed out the weaknesses of biofuels since the beginning, our enlightened government superiors mandated that we use ever more of it in our fuel supply.

The [Government Accountability Office( (GAO) released a report last week that didn’t receive as much press as it deserved. The GAO determined that ethanol has basically been a bust. The biofuel has not had any noticeable impact on CO2 levels in the atmosphere, nor has it made gas cheaper at the pump — both ostensible goals of the ethanol mandate. It’s not the GAO’s place to make policy recommendations, but the office’s work speaks for itself.

The GAO got involved in examining biofuels in 2014 when it discovered that refiners’ costs for complying with the Renewable Fuel Standard had increased. Two years later GAO also found that greenhouse gas emissions were not going to meet the target set for 2022.

The GAO’s findings were immediately attacked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has an obvious interest in seeing ethanol succeed. The USDA challenged GAO’s conclusions about the limited effect the program has had on reducing emissions. While they’re on the subject, they should talk about last year’s EPA report that found corn-based ethanol and soybean-based biodiesel were hurting water quality.

The issues of mileage standards and ethanol levels are related because of the top-down, Big Government mandates that dictate what kind of cars we drive and what fuel we put in them. Both should be permanently scrapped so the free market can determine the way forward.

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