Catch 22: the EPA v. the Free Market

Clarice Feldman16 Jul, 2023 5 Min Read
Enjoy the ride.

Only 6 percent of new vehicles sold today are electric. That's because the market for them is generally limited to wealthy buyers who live in warmer climates, travel shorter distances, and can take advantage of the substantial tax credits for electric vehicles. The rest of us are put off by the fact that these cars are less efficient and more expensive.

In the hopes of driving that percentage up, and with the stated purpose of combatting "climate change," the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has come up with a new scheme — artificially scaling back the number of gas-fueled vehicles automakers produce. To accomplish this they have proposed new regulations whereby the auto industry would have to cut emissions by half by 2032. This would ensure that most cars (67 percent) sold by that date are electric vehicles.

Of course, this won't do anything positive for the environment — it isn't as if electricity is created by the outlet you insert the plug into and the rare metals their batteries require grow on trees. But what does the EPA care about facts when there is an ideology to be imposed?

Fill 'er up, Uncle Sam.

Alas, controlling markets is easier said than done, meaning the EPA's plan is unlikely to succeed. Francis Menton explains why:

The current automotive sector of the economy represents thousands of elements coming together via private markets to satisfy customer demand. Each of the elements falls into place because someone perceives an opportunity to make money by providing that element. As just one example, gas stations don’t exist because the government ordered them up, but because entrepreneurs perceived that they could make money by building the stations and buying the pumps and making gasoline available at that location at a price that would cover all costs and allow for a profit.

Contrast that to what is now supposed to happen for electric vehicles. The government is allegedly going to be paying for some half a million charging stations around the country.... And why does the government have to do this? If the demand were there, entrepreneurs would already be installing the stations. It turns out that the stations are quite expensive to construct (at least the “fast charging” variety), and then you can’t really mark up the electricity that has to be purchased from the local utility. So it has to be done with government subsidy.

He furthers wonder what will happen when those government-built charging stations break, since there's no market incentive to keep them operational. The answer is they'll stay broken! This is what current E.V. owners are already finding. "That's how socialism works," says Menton. Which is to say, it doesn't.

There is understandably widespread opposition to the proposal. Indeed, it is already being challenged as unconstitutional and running afoul of the Major Questions Doctrine. The Supreme Court's ruling in West Virginia v. EPA, decided last year, seems likely to bear that out as administrative conduct that exceeds the agency’s authority. Among the opponents of this proposal are Warren Petersen, president of the Arizona Senate, and Ben Toma, the speaker of that state’s House, who have threatened future litigation if it is not withdrawn. Through their counsel, John Sauer, they warn the administration plan to manipulate the vehicle market “is en route to an epic smackdown.”

"We have a situation where EPA is stating in press releases that the purpose of this rule isn’t really to change emissions standards and make ordinary fossil fuel burning cars run a little cleaner. The purpose is to transform the entire automotive fleet in the United States,” said Sauer, explaining that the agency is admitting the emissions-standards constitute a “major question.”

“They’re taking what is a pretty ordinary, garden-variety form of delegation [from Congress] and interpreting it as a mandate to transform an entire foundational industry in the United States economy,” Sauer added.... Further, explained Sauer, the wrong agency is promulgating these rules, with the Department of Transportation normally tasked with setting energy efficiency standards for vehicles.

Didn't work in 1926 but surely it will work now.

Sauer further points out the deep mendacity and daftness embedded in the EPA's proposal, including the claim that "rapidly increasing the amount of electric vehicles in America would only increase the electric grid load by 1 to 4 percent," when the number is more like 40 percent. Moreover, with the EPA considering similar emissions limits on power plants meant to supply this electricity, "the agency is thus creating a situation where new capacity from oil and gas power plants is being shut down while demand on electric grid capacity is upped."

Arizona isn't alone in this fight. Twenty-five state attorneys general have written in opposition to the proposed rule, contending— with ample evidence—that “the electric grids are neither stable nor safe enough to handle EPA’s proposal. The country will be more energy-dependent and less secure because of it.”

Passenger vehicles are not the only targets of the EPA. The proposed rules on heavy-duty trucks would substantially raise shipping costs for all consumers. These trucks average 1,000 miles per trip and there are simply not enough charging stations for them, and even if there were, the time required to charge them would delay shipping considerably.

The only true beneficiary of this policy is China, where more than 80 percent of E.V. batteries are produced, and in a far dirtier environment, because of their extreme reliance on coal-fired power plants. Which is unsurprising given the Biden family’s history of graft from the P.R.C. If anything, this transition would only increase global emissions.

Even if you believe, as I do not, that carbon emissions are responsible for substantial "climate change" and that such hypothetical change is deleterious to the planet, this rule does nothing to alter that. Carbon emissions in the United States grow smaller every day and we and Western Europe lead the way on reducing them. On the other hand, countries like China are not even proposing to reduce theirs. If, in fact, we could rid ourselves of all fossil fuel emissions, statistician Kevin Dayaratna says the difference it would make would be minimal — “two-tenths of 1 degree Celsius by the year 2100.”

Holy Gaia, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.

True believing environmentalists will no doubt employ propaganda to make the case for these ridiculous proposals, with phony tales of polar bears dying and questionable charts purporting to show soaring heat deaths and increased hurricanes. Don't believe them. But more than that, arm yourself: learn all about the rainforests being destroyed to harvest nickel, the water and soil contamination from lithium production in South America, and the child cobalt miners in the Congo.

But also remember the more prosaic things — the cost of food, of electricity, of living that will be negatively affected by these market distortions. Shout it from the rooftops! The Greens don't have a monopoly on tugging at the heart-strings.

Clarice Feldman is a retired attorney living in Washington, D.C. During her legal career she represented the late labor leader Joseph ("Jock") Yablonski and the reform mine workers against Tony Boyle. She served as an attorney with the Department of Justice Office of Special Investigations, in which role she prosecuted those who aided the Nazis in World War II. She has written for The Weekly Standard and is a regular contributor to American Thinker.


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One comment on “Catch 22: the EPA v. the Free Market”

  1. The EPA has become like it was under Clinton(Bill)and Obama just another bunch of power mad Burricrats wanting to control our daily lives

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