Time to start reducing use of government force in transportation fuels.

The forced use of biofuels, euphemistically called the Renewable Fuel standard (RFS), was established in 2005.  Then as now, the RFS requires refiners and importers of transportation fuels to add minimum amounts of ethanol or bio diesel to their fuel, or be subject to fines.  The requirement has grown from 4 billion gallons in 2006 to 15 billion gallons for traditional ethanol for 2019.  Existing legislation requires a completely unrealistic total of 36 billion gallons by 2022, including at least 16 billion gallons from cellulosic biofuels.
The current “rebellion” by Iowa biofuel leaders against the waivers of the FRS requirement that are being granted to small refiners is understandable.  (The waivers allow small refiners to be exempt from adding bio-fuels to their gasoline or diesel.)  All businesses that are dependent on government protection will fight back if they feel their favored status is being threatened.  Biofuels producers and their suppliers (corn farmers), will lobby hard and loud to stop any reduction of the RFS.
Will the subsidies and use of force ever end?  After 13 years of increasing subsidies, we now need to pass laws to start reducing, and over time end, the forced use of ethanol.
Advertisements

Our liberties we prize? Our rights we will maintain?

Recent Iowa Polls have found: A majority of Iowans prefer to use the force of government to require fellow citizens to buy gasoline that has ethanol blended into it whether the buyer wants it or not.  A majority of Iowans prefer to treat fellow citizens as criminals if they use drugs that are not favored by the majority, even if such use harms no other person.  A majority of Iowans want to force businesses to pay a minimum wage, even though it means that the least skilled people may not be able to find work.  A majority of Iowans prefer to use the force of government to prohibit vaping in privately owned businesses, even if the owners, customers and employees prefer that it be allowed.  Iowa should change its motto to:  Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain, unless, of course, the current majority disagrees, even if you are a peaceful person and do no harm to others.

Carbon tax – don’t forget about ethanol and bio-diesel.

In his essay in The Des Moines Sunday Register (10/5/2014), Richard Doak used the example of British Columbia (BC) as a regional government that has gone out on its own and instituted a carbon tax.  He wrote that the carbon tax as been a success.  The revenue neutral tax has allowed BC to reduce personal and corporate income taxes to quite low levels.  He reported that in BC, “Economic growth is slightly better than the rest of Canada…”
He asked, “Why can’t Iowa be like that?”  Throughout the essay, Doak talked about taxing “fossil fuels”.  What he did not talk about was that fact that the BC carbon tax applies to ethanol and bio-diesel, because both contain carbon that is released into the atmosphere when burned.
When all aspects of production are considered, there is still a question about which fule, gasoline or ethanol, puts more carbon into the atmosphere.  At the time of combustion, ethanol puts about one third less carbon into the atmosphere than gasoline.  So, to the extent that there is discussion in Iowa or the U.S. about a carbon tax, the tax on ethanol should  be about two-thirds of the tax on gasoline.  It should not be zero.
Doak also talks about replacing the gasoline tax with a carbon tax to fund road building and maintenance.  He make the point that a tax on coal and natural gas, used to make electricity, will make users of electric cars pay their share for roads.  In almost any scenario of the future, electric cars will use a very small fraction of the total electricity output and will not come close to paying their fair share of road use.  Most of the cost of a carbon tax on coal and natural gas will be paid by households and businesses.  Doak is right that roads should be financed by users, but a carbon tax is not a good solution.
Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2014/10/04/richard-doax-climate-change/16747421/

Ethanol credit speculation – for dummies

Speculators are being blamed for increases in ethanol RIN credits!  Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credits are issued to manufacturers for every gallon of ethanol that they blend into gasoline.  All manufacturers are required to meet targets for blending ethanol into their gasoline – in order to meet national Renewable Fuels Standards.  If they fail to meet their targets, they have to pay substantial penalties.  Some manufacturers exceed their targets so they have excess credits that they are allowed to sell.  Others fail to meet their targets and either have to purchase credits from other manufacturers or pay the penalties.  If, for the entire market, it appears there will be a shortage then the price of the credits will go up.  If it were possible for a few speculators to “corner the market”, then they might be able to hold out for higher prices.  But, the there were truly a shortage, then manufacturers who have excess credits could just as easily do the same.  In either case, this puts pressure on manufacturers to blend more ethanol.  If there is a shortage of ethanol, then the price of ethanol should rise.  If the price of ethanol rises than ethanol producers will try to increase their production to capture more profit.  In any case, the credits are doing what they are supposed to do: reward manufacturers who blend excess gallons and penalize those who blend less than their target.  If the entire market is below the target, then there will be incentives to produce more ethanol.  Speculators help the market to work as it was intended.  The real problem here is the entire Renewable Fuel Standards that uses force, in the form of money penalties, to make everyone use more ethanol than they would in a voluntary market.  This is a classic case of unintended consequences that occurs when people discover, as Friedrich Hayek wrote, “…how little they know about what they imagine they can design.”