In his campaign, Mr. Trump said we were going to be so successful that we would get tired of winning. Count me as not yet weary. Over the last few weeks, there were two big stories with EPA which are worth highlighting. In general, Mr. Trump has gone with a full scale assault on the EPA’s swamp. While many uncritically accept government as acting on the best interests of the people, more attentive citizens are aware that bureaucracies are not necessarily concerned with the public interest, but rather their own private interest. Standard public choice theory advances “capture theory” whereby the regulatory agency may be “captured” by the very agency it is regulating. While this is the most common way of thinking about regulatory capture, a more appropriate way would be to extend the capture not simply to the affected industry, but rather any special interest group. Such it is with the EPA–it has been captured by the environmental movement, rather than by a specific business. Its not particularly surprising, when to be against the EPA means you want poison in the air and water. Who wants to be for that?
One area of EPA excess has been its use of consent decrees, where it encourages its allies (either progressive states or environmental groups) to sue the EPA. Yes, the EPA wants to be sued. Why? Because they can then settle with the organization that sued them (and oh by the way pay large attorneys fees to them) to agree to a set of actions that are beyond the scope of their legislative authority. But then they can say that a court forced them to. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has put an end to this practice.
“The days of regulation through litigation are over,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “We will no longer go behind closed doors and use consent decrees and settlement agreements to resolve lawsuits filed against the Agency by special interest groups where doing so would circumvent the regulatory process set forth by Congress. Additionally, gone are the days of routinely paying tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees to these groups with which we swiftly settle.”
Count this as one against the swamp. But unfortunately we can get tired of winning here, because Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst joined with Democrats to inflict more damage on the public by rolling Mr. Trump over expanding ethanol requirements for gasoline. Ethanol already inflicts damage on small engines that can’t handle its corrosive properties, and unfortunately attaining the very higher fuel efficiencies that government desires means we aren’t buying as much gas. Which means that even with ethanol making up 10% of gasoline, its not high enough to get rid of all the subsidized ethanol. Corn state Republicans are having none of that, and are forcing the EPA to continue and possibly increase the currently unattainable amount of ethanol that is mandated by the Renewable Fuels Standard. The only solution would be to require ever higher concentrations of ethanol in our gasoline (well beyond the current 10%). Mr. Grassley threatened to hold up Trump administration nominees if Big Ethanol were not given preferential treatment. And beyond the material cost to an uneconomic destroyer of small gasoline engines, beyond the poor mileage that ethanol yields, its not even good for the environment. All the corn that is grown to support this government program causes its own environmental issues.
Mr. Trump, can we please have some more winning?