Time to cap fossil fuel pollution

Instead of setting a blend wall for ethanol, why not set a fossil fuel pollution cap, writes Mike Bryan of BBI International. This column is titled "Time to cap pollution" in the October issue of EPM.
By Mike Bryan | September 16, 2015

Since the ethanol blend wall seems to be the current issue the U.S. EPA is struggling with, I have a crazy idea. Instead of setting a blend wall for ethanol, why not set a fossil fuel pollution cap (PC). After all, ethanol is not causing major pollution in our cities, it’s not damaging our environment, or polluting our oceans, rivers and streams and causing untold health issues for our citizens, fossil fuels have already cornered that market. It just seems like the EPA is doing everything possible to restrict the use of the wrong fuel. Fossil fuels have a proven track record of nasty effects from health to wars. I don’t recall seeing any health effects or wars that have been attributed to ethanol.

While seemingly an outlandish idea, having a fossil fuel PC would accomplish a number of key objectives for the country and the environment. Unless I’m mistaken, that should be the objective of the EPA, to help protect the citizens of this country through sound environmental policy. Policy that promotes a cleaner environment and better air quality, via minimizing the use of polluting fuels like gasoline and diesel fuel. Besides, the PC could also stand for the politically correct thing to do as we come into the 2016 election cycle.

It’s not terribly complicated. The government, led by the EPA, would enact legislation that caps the use of fossil fuels over the next 30 years to, say, 50 percent of its 2020 level. Let’s say that by 2020, fossil fuel use would be capped at 85 percent of the levels it is today. That would provide an opportunity for ethanol and biodiesel to meet those limits over the course of the next four years.

Then, during the following 10 years from 2020 to 2030, fossil fuel use would have to be reduced from the 2020 level to 70 percent. Following that, it would have to be reduced to 60 percent and, finally, by 2045 to 50 percent of the 2020 level. It’s a program that would accomplish many things for the environment, air pollution and for the economy as a whole. All by simply addressing the root cause of the problem. 

It is difficult to imagine the impact such a policy would have on the economy of this country. Not just the rural economy, but the economy as a whole. We would not have to concern ourselves anymore about protecting our oil interests around the globe. We would reduce air pollution by at least 30 percent or more. We would go far toward achieving our global carbon reduction goals and improve the health and well-being of citizens from coast to coast. Combined that with the development of new vehicle technology such as electric and improved fuel economy and it may just be an achievable idea.

I know, I could have used this space to talk about something that actually has a chance of becoming policy, but one never knows. The EPA is simply focused on the wrong thing. It’s seems to be intent on restricting the use of a fuel that has contributed enormously to the environment, the economy and energy security, in favor of a fuel that has done almost the exact opposite.

The introduction of a fossil fuel PC is beyond my ability, but perhaps some of our Washington insiders ought to give it a think. Many things begin with a simple idea.

That’s the way I see it.

Author: Mike Bryan
Chairman, BBI International
mbryan@bbiinternational.com