Internal EPA Document May Foreshadow Tax and Regulatory Actions

Published July 1, 1997

EPA’s controversial proposal to tighten air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter is but the latest manifestation of a comprehensive effort by the Clinton administration and its allies in the environmental community and in a host of international organizations to slap rigid controls on the use of energy by the world’s economies.

As noted in a recent issue of eco-logic, the objective of reducing or eliminating the use of fossil-fuel energy in developed countries will focus on two immediate targets: electricity and automobiles. The method to be employed is to make use of both so expensive that only the well-to-do and those exempted by government decree will be able to afford them. The underlying justification for the attack on energy is the threat of global warming.

While all of this may seem far-fetched to the uninitiated, the fact is that a host of international organizations–known in United Nations jargon as non-government organizations (NGOs)–have put their considerable financial and political resources to work to fashion an anti-energy-use strategy. At the second Preparatory Committee meeting for the International Car Summit in Geneva, Switzerland last summer, four NGOs–the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Earth Summit Watch, Climate Action Network, and Naturschutzbund Deutschland, along with the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP)–specifically cited automobile use in the United States as a major source of global greenhouse gases. Their report, Green Auto Racing, said that automobiles in America account for half of all carbon dioxide emissions and 25 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Just four months after the release of Green Auto Racing, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) uncovered an EPA document developed in May 1994 outlining some 39 measures that could be taken to reduce energy consumption in the U.S. While the Republican takeover of Congress has delayed implementation of the plan, the document provides a revealing blueprint of how EPA would like to propose curbing energy use by availing itself of existing statutes and administrative authority. Among the measures proposed in the EPA document are:

  • Tighten CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards through rule-making authority. The plan calls for CAFE standards to rise from the current 27.5 mpg to 33.5 by 2010; 40.9 in 2020; and 45.1 in 2025. EPA estimated this would cost consumers an additional $4,000 per vehicle.
  • Levy a $0.50 per gallon fee on gasoline under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. If the Secretary of Commerce finds that imports of oil impair national security, he could levy such a tax without Congressional approval. EPA estimated that the scheme would raise $47 billion in new revenues by the year 2000.
  • Define BACT (Best Available Control Technology) to include pollution prevention and aggressively pursue “alternatives analysis” under the Clean Air Act. EPA could begin raising objections to state determinations of BACT through the usual permit review procedures. It would be possible for EPA to question even the need for a particular new power plant if energy efficiency measures have not been “aggressively pursued” in the service territory of the applicant.
  • Pay-at-the-pump insurance program. A portion of insurance costs would be collected through a per-gallon premium on gasoline. A $0.25 per gallon premium would be applied to the sale of gasoline–a measure, EPA notes, that would “create incentives to drive less.”
  • VMT emissions-based registration fees. This measure would shift the cost of vehicle inspections from the state to the vehicle owner.
  • Energy taxes. One of the few proposed measures that would require Congressional approval, EPA proposes that the following be considered: a greenhouse gas tax; a carbon tax; a BTU tax; an at-source ad valorem tax; an end-use ad valorem tax; a motor fuels tax; and an oil import fee.

PF: For further information, see “The War on Energy: Locating the Battle Fields,” published in the November/December 1996 issue of eco-logic. The three-page article is available through PolicyFax. Call 847/202-4888 and request document #2322119. 3 pages.