Values—the collective decision of what means more are often chosen in times of stress, when the pressure of two ideas creates an impassable gorge between two things we cannot have. Though small, perhaps insignificant compared to what we are already doing to the environment, President Biden has agreed to follow in Donald Trump’s footsteps in allowing 15% ethanol gasoline, or E15, to be sold year-round. Now, regardless of the limited environmental impacts of this decision, it puts what we value, and what our government values, into a microcosm.
Do we value the rule of law set by the Clean Air Act? Or do we value the economics of lower gas prices?
When the money gets tight, we have shown our values are placed on economics; though not a newfound realization, it is a depressing reality that has come to the surface over and over again. Environmental concerns fall to the wayside, and though Biden allowing the sale of E15 through the summer months will not be the straw that will break the climate’s back, the precedent it sets can certainly lead to it.
The actual issue is not on the allowance of E15, though. Regardless of environmental concerns, the disregard for regulations in the CAA poses a serious question: how much do we value the rule of law?
The act clearly states that “the Administrator shall promulgate regulations making it unlawful for any person during the high ozone season (as defined by the Administrator) to sell, offer for sale, dispense, supply, offer for supply, transport or introduce into commerce gasoline with a Reid Vapor Pressure in excess of 9.0 pounds per square inch (psi).” Subsequently, that only 10% ethanol, otherwise known as E10, is given the looser restriction of a higher Reid Vapor Pressure allotment. This has now been changed, so E15 gasoline is given the same emission flexibility.
As I said before, this is not going to kill the environment any more than we already are, but what concerns me is why it was changed.
We have all seen the red numbers on gas station signs ticking up—first three dollars, now four dollars, soon to be five dollars. Now, if you do not live under a rock, you probably have a rudimentary understanding that the conflict in Ukraine has contributed to this by offsetting the stasis of the global oil market. Is rolling back legislation, particularly environmental legislation, the way to resolve this economic pressure?
I do not believe so.
This is not to be oppositional for oppositional sake, rather to respect the legislative structure and rule of law. We must work within the means provided, and the legislation of the CAA is what is provided; to set a precedent of changing regulatory legislation when economically strained, particularly environmental legislation, will only lead to this becoming a more regular occurrence. As these conflicts become more common, and the international economy becomes more interconnected, these economic stressors will also become more common.
Dealing with these must be done absent of increasing the leniency of environmental legislation; we will suffer economically, and I know this exemplifies my place of privilege, but our values must rest in environmental maintenance, and upholding the legislation thereof. This is a long-term approach, and setting a precedent of tampering with such legislation will only harm us further down the road.