Congress Mandates the Impossible

Drivers are paying more at the pump than they have in any other January. While there are several reasons for the high prices, including increasing demand from developing countries and Iranian saber rattling, the federal government is doing its part to keep gasoline prices high by mandating the impossible.

According to The New York Times, companies that supply motor fuel paid $6.8 million in fines in 2011 for not using enough cellulosic derived biofuel in gasoline. The companies will face even steeper fines in 2012 when the congressional mandate to use cellulosic biofuels goes up from 6.6 million gallons to 8.65 million gallons. Companies could avoid paying the fines except for one thing — cellulosic biofuels only exist in small quantities in laboratories and are not commercially available.

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There may be little sympathy for fuel companies from the motoring public, but the fines levied by the Environmental Protection Agency will invariably be passed on to motorists through higher gasoline prices. When federal lawmakers mandate the technically impossible and fine fuel companies for not complying, they are in effect levying a tax on gasoline.

It is not surprising that mistrust of the government is running high and polls show Congressional approval is in single digits when the political class abandons common sense and logic and adopts environmental ideology. No amount of wishful thinking on their part can change the realities of science and economics. Cellulosic biofuels may someday be able to compete in the marketplace, but it will be due to technical innovation and not unrealistic federal mandates.

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