Wednesday, May 16, 2012

House panel prepares to vote on big oil industry wish list -- the GASP Act. Where is the White House on this?

Rarely does an industry wish list stand out in such stark terms.

But so it is with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which begins debate this afternoon on what it euphemistically refers to as the “Gasoline Regulations Act of 2012” (H.R. 4471)

We believe this should be called the “GASP Act” – Gutting Air Standards Protections.

However you may want to brand it, there is no doubt this is the wish list of big oil, as advanced by the American Petroleum Institute. Among its key features: blocking any EPA effort to reduce the sulfur content of gasoline (the so-called “Tier 3” plan) ; and reversing four decades of the Clean Air Act – as well as a unanimous Supreme Court decision – by requiring that future national standards for ozone undergo a cost test.

Just compare the contents of this legislation with the oil agenda as outlined in two documents: one released yesterday and for the DNC and RNC platform committees and another to EPA from April 2011, which was re-released on May 10.

Yesterday’s document
specifically assails the as-yet-unveiled EPA “Tier 3” proposal for cleaner cars and cleaner, low-sulfur gas. From the report:

EPA’s Tier 3 vehicle emission proposal is being promulgated before there is a full airing of the impacts, costs and benefits of further reductions of sulfur and vapor pressure in gasoline. According to an independent analysis conducted by Baker & O’Brien, Inc., new Tier 3 requirements could boost the cost of making gasoline by up to 25 cents per gallon, close up to seven U.S. refineries, and actually increase refinery carbon dioxide emissions.

This is such a duplicitous paragraph that no legislation should be based on it. It refers to an analysis performed of something EPA does not intend to propose. API itself has acknowledged this cost projection is way overblown. But facts have given way to propaganda.

The second document
highlights, among other items, API desire to impose a cost test on national ozone standards.

This committee vote appears to be greased. But there are more battles ahead – including possible efforts to stick elements of the oil industry wish list into spending or other “must pass” legislation.

So where is the White House on this? There have been several very interesting pieces in the past week (starting, I believe, with National Journal) on the Obama White House’s apparently cozy connection to big oil. White House silence on the GASP Act would unfortunately appear to confirm that cozy connection.

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