Posts Tagged ‘corn ethanol’

Kintigh_Generating_Station_-_Somerset,_New_YorkVortex Tools covers the Supreme Court’s ruling against the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to limit power plant emissions.

It’s been a spotlight year for the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). One week, a political group can claim SCOTUS is finally leading on an issue that is overdue for reform; the next week, the same group can gripe that the same SCOTUS shouldn’t overstep their bounds and should respect the laws as is. Yay, politics?

So this is the SCOTUS ruling this week:

The basics:

  • In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) imposed new regulations on coal- and oil-fired power plant emissions. These rules—on curbing mercury and other hazardous air pollutants—were supposed to take place in April 2016 and included capturing 90% of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants (before they get released into the air), reducing 88% of acid gas emissions from power plants, and reducing sulfur dioxide emissions by 41%.
  • However, 21 states and industry groups challenged the regulations in front of the Supreme Court, and on June 29th, 2015, they voted 5-4 against the EPA. The main reasoning was that the EPA did not reasonably consider the costs of these regulations, and the majority of SCOTUS believes that the economic cost—costing $9.6 billion to install/operate equipment to remove mercury pollutants—disproportionately exceeded the health and environmental benefits.
  • The dissent believed that the EPA had considered these costs at the later stages of the project. They estimated that while the costs were nearly $10 billion for energy companies to get into compliance, they argued benefits of $37 to $90 billion annually. However, the majority of SCOTUS did not agree, and the EPA now returns to lower courts to account for the costs of compliance.

The interpretation:

  • Saying that the EPA overreached and didn’t consider the plausibility of enforcing such a standard is a common complaint from the industries looking at regulation. However, there are previous examples where this has not helped, like with cellulosic ethanol standards in gasoline—where the standards were unattainable, but the EPA enforced fines anyway.
  • Energy companies rarely like regulation, and as much as they say that they’ll regulate themselves, it rarely happens unless they’re forced into it, so some regulation is needed. Once regulations are enforced, innovation happens. However, this is not always the case (again, looking at ethanol standards in gasoline: lignocellulosic ethanol was supposed to be the great equalizer, but it wound up being a fantasy fuel that remains unproven, and the regulations remain unattainable).
  • This was the first of President Obama’s energy regulations to make it up to the Supreme Court, and with the ruling, it sets a precedence for the rest. Now state courts can point to a ruling from above them and this may well stop other energy cases from reaching the Supreme Court again. Regardless, as the regulations were announced at the end of 2011, some power plant companies already made an attempt to comply with the regulations.

However it goes, political groups will still have plenty to complain about next week.

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Colin McKay Miller is the VP of Marketing for the SpiroFlo Holdings group of companies:

SpiroFlo for residential hot water savings (delivered 35% faster with up to a 5% volume savings on every hot water outlet in the home), industrial water purification (biofilm removal), and reduced water pumping costs.

Vortex Tools for extending the life of oil and gas wells (recovering up to 10 times more NGLs, reducing flowback startup times, replacing VRUs, eliminating paraffin and freezing in winter, etc.).

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