Since his confirmation early last year, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been not only a leading champion but also implementer of regulatory reform.GQ has called him “dangerously effective” while the Wall Street Journal editorial board named Pruitt the most “consequential” of Trump’s cabinet officials.
In his first year, Pruitt has “proposed repealing or delaying more than thirty significant environmental rules,”spearheaded a budget blueprint that would reduce the EPA’s funding by 31 percent, and put the agency on track to shrinking its workforce to the lowest level since the Reagan era.
Taxpayers can thank Pruitt for more than $1 billion in deregulatory savings and the collection of $1.6 billion in administrative and civil judicial penalties.
So, it is curious that neither Pruitt nor the Trump administration has not tackled the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), one of the most harmful environmental regulations in American history – that is, at least yet.
Today, scores of blue-collar workers from submerging northeast refineries are rallying in Washington. Their objective is to encourage the rockstar deregulator to follow his impressive track record by amending a government mandate within the RFS that threatens their job security, all while decimating America’s manufacturing sector at large.
Conceived by the Bush administration and expanded under the Obama administration, the Renewable Fuel Standard mandates that refiners blend a certain percentage of ethanol into their fuel. That’s what prompted the existence of those dirty-looking “CONTAINS TEN PERCENT ETHANOL” signs you’ve probably noticed at gas pumps nationwide.
Each of these ethanol blends receives a government-generated Renewable Identification Number (RINs) credit. The government counts these credits annually to ensure individual compliance with the law, which is why analysts call this ethanol requirement the RINs mandate.
The red tape in question was sold to Congress in 2007 as a means of reducing dependence on foreign oil, but like most government mandates, the opposite has occurred. Mixing ethanol into gasoline is difficult, mainly due to the ethanol mixture’s limited shelf life. Generally, only the nation’s largest refiners can do the blending because they are the only ones that can mix at the point of sale, ensuring it’s fresh before going into consumers’ pumps.
So what other options do the rest of America’s refiners who don’t sell directly to consumers have concerning compliance? In a blow to the myth of the RINs mandate bolstering our energy independence, some resort to importing ethanol mixtures just to receive an adequate number of RINs credits. Others buy surplus RINs credits – not the blend itself; just the credit number associated with the mix – from the few American refiners that can produce more than the government requires of them annually.
It costs some refiners half-a-million dollars a day just to comply with the law. Philadelphia Energy Solutions’ – the northeast’s largest refiner - recent declaration of bankruptcy has threatened over 1,100 jobs. Two former governors, Republican Tom Corbett and Democrat Ed Rendell, also noted that The National Black Caucus of State Legislators found “adverse impacts on refining related to these implementation problems endanger gasoline supply and price, creating substantial unequal impacts for consumers living on fixed incomes and in communities of color.”
And so, without reform, what we have here is a mandate that increases America’s energy dependence, hurts the working poor, and decimates its manufacturing base, all just to line the pockets of foreign countries and wealthy oil firms. It was likely created with good intentions, but it’s a far cry from being useful in its current form.
Thankfully for the concerned refiners rallying in Washington today, Administrator Pruitt is one of the most astute leaders in all of Washington. Although the intricacies and demands of the D.C. political chess game caused him to steer clear of moving the ethanol point of obligation last November, he recently pointed blame at the RINs program for bankrupting refiners on Fox News and called for reform of the RINs mandate.
Contrary to what some may want you to believe, the problems of the forgotten men and women have not been overlooked by the Trump administration. Pruitt, the nation’s leading deregulatory maverick, knows exactly what he is doing.
He has studied this issue carefully in recent White House meetings, and when the time is right, he will drop a compromise measure that will pass the smell test of official Washington – one that even the president himself asked to receive.
To the blue collars refiners worrying their hearts out, I say keep fighting and pushing, but rest easy. In his 15 months on the job, Administrator Pruitt has achieved more than most bureaucrats have in a lifetime. He has yet to let America down, and he’s not going to start now – not on a critical issue like this one.
Trust the promise keepers within the Trump administration.
Bryan Crabtree, is author of new book, "The Trump In You: Acting Like Trump Is Actually A Good Thing." Crabtree is a radio host on AM 920 The ANSWER in Atlanta, GA and the publisher of Talk40.com
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