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DelVal Dems Back Ban on Gas-Powered Cars

Delaware Valley Democrats rejected a bipartisan bill hitting the brakes on banning gas-powered cars.

When the Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchasing Act (H.R. 145) came up for a vote in Congress last week, all three Democrats in the local delegation — Reps. Madeleine Dean, Chrissy Houlahan, and Mary Gay Scanlon — voted against it. The measure protects consumers from state government bans on buying cars powered by internal combustion engines.

Bucks County Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick joined his fellow Republicans, along with eight Democrats. in passing the bill with a 220-190 vote.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can grant waivers to states to pursue more stringent clean car rules than the federal government. The state action at issue is California’s Advanced Clean Cars II rule, which states, “By 2035, all new passenger cars, trucks and SUVs sold in California will be zero emissions.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, “California is now asking the EPA for a new waiver to require that EVs make up an increasing share of cars sold in the state, from 35 percent in 2026 to 100 percent in 2035.”

In other words, a complete ban on new sales of gas-powered vehicles by 2035.

The House bill would stop that ban from going into effect, preventing the EPA from granting waivers that allow states to adopt rules that have the effect of banning the sales of gas-powered vehicles in any way.

“There is truly nothing more American than the freedom of the open road,” said Rep. John Joyce, M.D. (R-Altoona) during last week’s House debate. Since many states follow California’s lead on air pollution rules, its action could force automakers to stop producing and selling gas-powered vehicles, Joyce said.

“California regulators shouldn’t have the power to determine what vehicles are sold to families in Pennsylvania,” he said.

But California’s desire may impact Pennsylvania. The Keystone State has long looked to the Golden State for guidance on emission control standards. That includes partially copying the California Low Emission Vehicle Program in 1998. Former Gov. Tom Wolf (D) drafted a plan to join California’s 2035 requirement in 2021. He changed his mind a year later.

Reps. Dean, Houlahan, and Scanlon have all been boosters of the Biden administration’s energy policies, shutting down pipelines and revoking oil and gas leases, even as the price of gasoline has spiked. Under Biden, the national average for a gallon of gas broke the $5.00 a gallon barrier, more than double the average price of $2.39 on President Joe Biden’s first day in office.

The average price of gasoline in Pennsylvania is currently around $3.90 a gallon, about 40 percent higher than when Biden was sworn in.

The Pennsylvania Automotive Association (PAA) sees EVs as the future, but not by banning the competition.

“Pennsylvania’s franchised dealers are ready for EVs and are essential to widespread consumer EV adoption.” PAA President John Devlin told DVJournal. “Across the U.S., dealers have invested more than $5 billion in training and equipment needed to facilitate the education, sales, and service experience for EV customers.

“However, we believe California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle program goes too far, too fast, mandating that 35 percent of vehicle sales be electric by 2026 and 100 percent by 2035 and penalizing our manufacturers if they fail to reach these thresholds,” he said. Devlin thinks affordability, consumer incentives, charging infrastructure, and model availability are the best focus.

Pennsylvania drivers aren’t on board with a gas-engine ban. Of the more than 8 million registered vehicles in the Keystone State, fewer than 48,000 are EVs, according to U.S. Department of Energy statistics. And that’s despite billions of dollars in federal and state subsidies to EV buyers, subsidies that go disproportionately to the wealthy.

Even in California, regulations forcing trucking companies to add only electric trucks to their inventory are getting a reality check. According to National Review, “There were fewer than 300 electric trucks on California roads last year. Under the regulations, there will need to be more than half a million by 2035.” Not to mention, the sheer cost of an electric truck is often too high for many truckers in the state, regardless of the tax credits.

Asked why they backed the ban on gas-powered cars and if they believe Pennsylvania should follow in California’s footsteps, Reps. Dean, Houlahan, and Scanlon all declined to respond.

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ALPERT: The Ethanol Fraud

America’s ethanol scam is responsible for the malnourishment of millions of people, higher energy costs and substantial resource misallocations. The most damning count of this indictment is corn ethanol fails to do what it is supposed to do and is more tragic because corn ethanol is not environmentally responsible. 

The United States now uses 40 percent — or more than 6 billion bushels — of its corn production for conversion to ethanol (2021). If this acreage were employed for corn or other grains for human consumption, it could be enough to stave off starvation for millions. In addition, it would also lower fuel costs and improve automotive performance. 

Currently, if the United States were to devote the 6 billion bushels of corn used for ethanol to corn for food, it could more than meet the world’s total demand for imported corn. 

The scam began with the bipartisan passage of the Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011, which phased in requirements that new vehicles be engineered to operate on sustainable fuels to reduce carbon emissions and lower American dependence on oil.

We produce so much ethanol because the government subsidizes it big time. As David Frum points out in a recent Atlantic article, the government has required ethanol to be added to gasoline, with the production of ethanol receiving “all kinds of grants and subsidies.” 

An honest computation of these subsidies would be helpful but is not readily available. In congressional testimony in 2017, the Congressional Budget Office stated the private economy could not make profit-producing ethanol, therefore “the federal government provides financial support for the development, production and use of fuels and energy technologies … through tax preferences and … spending programs … with the purpose of increasing energy production, reducing greenhouse gasses and encouraging research.”

While the amount of government financial support is uncertain since both the prices of oil and corn are involved in the final prices received by producers (farmers and oil refiners). These are classic examples of production complements — when the demand for gasoline increases, the need for ethanol also increases.

However, a higher price of gasoline will cause the quantity demanded of gasoline to decline and, likewise, the demand for ethanol. There are many moving parts when determining government payments for ethanol, including the jumble of corn subsidies and the payments for ethanol itself. Estimates of taxpayer costs via subsidies and special interest carveouts vary widely, but a reasonable guess is $10 billion per year.

Frum recalls that the late senator John McCain joked that he began his day with a glass of ethanol. It would be an amusing quip if it were not for the fact that the ethanol boondoggle is costing lives and treasure. It costs the world not only American corn but other crops that would be grown in replacement of corn without ethanol subsidies.

A recent study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (“Environmental Outcomes of the US Renewable Fuel Standard” by Tyler J. Lark et al.) shows that ethanol does not help the environment and might be harmful to it.

The authors state that “our findings confirm that contemporary corn ethanol production is unlikely to contribute to climate change mitigation.” In addition, the authors point out that their research does not consider land-use impacts. They do find that ethanol production harms water quality, and it changes farmers’ planting decisions, heavily favoring corn over other grains that are more desirable for human food consumption.

The tragic consequences of ethanol mandates are not only that are they costly to the world community via misallocation of food production but that they pollute the planet with fertilizers and farm-equipment exhausts and are useless in combating climate change. Unless a technical change is made and adopted in ethanol production and use, these mandates are harmful and will be at best neutral for carbon emissions going forward.

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PA Selected As Site for Natural Gas to Gasoline Plant

Pennsylvania was selected as the second of nine sites for a $6 billion plant that will turn natural gas and methane into gasoline.

At a recent press conference, state Sen. John Yudichak (I-Carbon/Luzerne) noted the plant will create about 3,500 construction jobs in Luzerne County with 400 permanent jobs once it opens. Yudichak, whose own family worked in the coal mining industry, said that the “grandsons and great-grandsons of these anthracite miners can now walk in new footsteps, footsteps that are going to reduce the carbon footprint of the transportation sector in our country and in our world. It is a revolutionary idea that you are presenting to the United States and to Pennsylvania. We can change the game on climate action, that we can have a responsible, sustainable climate change solution, and have good-paying energy jobs.”

The new plant has garnered bipartisan support, he said, including from Gov. Tom Wolf.

Thomas Tureen, chairman of the board of Nacero Inc., said the new plant will the tradition of people in the area of “mining” and ‘hard work” are critical to the success of the venture.

“This is a transformative environmental project that we’re undertaking,” said Tureen. The plant will turn natural gas and methane into gasoline. “Transportation is probably the most difficult sector to get at in terms of global warming. It is certainly one of our largest, roughly a quarter, of greenhouse gases come from this quarter and it’s very difficult to change it because we need those cars. Electrification is a wonderful idea but it’s going to take time.” He promised the facility, to be built on former mine land, will be very clean and ecologically sound.

“I want to emphasize that this is not refining,” he said. “This is a catalytic process, not a refining process. This process will cut the life cycle carbon footprint of gasoline roughly in half.

“Our fuel will have no sulfur,” Tureen added. “That will allow the catalytic converters in today’s cars and trucks to a better job in removing the precursors of ground-level ozone.”

They will also use methane that escapes from cattle and farming, he said. And the natural gas that the plant uses will be carried over existing pipelines.

Methane is “our most immediate climate problem,” according to the United Nations, he noted. Once all nine plants are online, methane in the atmosphere will be reduced by 22 percent, he said.

“We’re really excited to bring this,” he said. The technology is already in use in Turkmenistan.

U.S. Rep. Daniel Meuser (R-9th District) called the plan “incredible” and thanked Tureen for bringing the plant to northeastern Pennsylvania.

“The quality of life, the improvements this will bean for our area are immense,” said Meuser.  “This project will help transform Pennsylvania reclaiming hundreds of acres of mine-scarred land.”

Warren Faust, president of Northeast Pennsylvania Construction Trades Council, is excited that Nacero will add the 3,500 to 4,000 construction jobs to the area.

“It’s not just the investment of Nacero’s site here, turning natural gas to gasoline,” he said. “It’s the residual work. The whole community will be stronger because of their investment.”

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” said Faust.

Yudichak said they had put together a team to bring the plant to Pennsylvania, saying this development is “historic.” The industrial project is predicated on state Act 66, a tax credit for manufacturing and also federal tax credits for alternative fuels, said Yudichak.

“It’s been 50 years since the U.S. has built a new refinery,” said Tureen, but this is “brand new” technology and not a refinery. “We are very attuned to safety as we are to the environment,” said Tureen. The tanks have an automatic system to extinguish any fire in 90 seconds.  “We’re making a cleaner fuel, but we’re making it in a much cleaner manner, as well.”

“This is an anchor industry,” he continued. “It will underlie the community in the way only something this large and this reliable can.”

It will also create opportunities for students and young people, he said.

“Our approach to this runs up and down the scale,” he said. “The jobs, the steady employment, we’re estimating upwards of $100,000 a year for the operating jobs…that’s important to the community.”

Yudichak said a study that Houston-based Nacero commissioned for its Texas plant showed a $25 billion ripple effect across the economy. He predicted similar growth in northeastern Pennsylvania,

Tureen said Nacero’s technology will be the quickest way to get climate change under control. The plant will take four years to build, plus a year of planning but they could break ground as early as next year.

“Today’s announcement shows how we can bring these jobs back and breathe new life into our communities with responsible policies targeted toward creating family-sustaining jobs in Pennsylvania,” state Sen. Jake Corman, president pro tempore said in a press release.

The project was made possible by the Local Resource Manufacturing Tax Credit program, which was approved last July with the unanimous support of Senate Republicans. The program provides up to $6.7 million in tax credits for qualifying projects, Corman noted.


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