Gas bureaucracies & bad deals

Gas bureaucracies & bad deals

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when bureaucrats in bureaucracies first seek to intercede.

The tale is worn and oft-told about how Allegheny County has yet to be given final permission to permanently stop using reformulated “summer-blend” gasoline. Neighboring counties already have been granted that permanent relief.

Simply put, the reformulated gas – technically known as Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) gasoline – in use for the past two decades no longer is necessary, thanks in large part to cleaner-burning engines.

But government bureaucracies being what they are, Allegheny County’s request has yet to be formally granted – primarily because the county has an additional level of bureaucracy. There have been oodles of bureaucrats pointing lots of fingers at boodles of other bureaucrats.

Which put refiners and service stations between a rock, a hard place and the law. Because EPA regulations mandate that the summer fuel be used between June 1 and Sept. 15, refiners had to refine it and start delivering it. And gas stations had to begin stocking it weeks in advance to make sure supplies were available and the letter of the law was met.

The kicker is that the blend costs more, leaving Allegheny County stations, many already more expensive than outlier counties, at an additional price disadvantage. And if gas stations in neighboring Ohio and West Virginia, less than an hour away, were factored into the equation, that differential could be whopping.

On Wednesday, the EPA granted temporary relief. Because of a pipeline supply failure, the summer blend was becoming hard to come by. Thus, the EPA granted a waiver, until June 17, for the day the seasonal gas use must begin.

If the shortage persists, the waiver could be extended. If the supply problem is fixed, RVP gas could again be forced into use. For how long? That’s anybody’s guess.

Because, meanwhile, back in the bureaucracy, the EPA, which promised an expedited review of the overall request to kill the RVP mandate for good, now has to review a handful of complaints opposing the move.

How long that could take, only a bureaucrat knows. Molasses in the Arctic might move faster.

While Allegheny County gas prices are down sharply from 10 days ago, many normal supply and demand variables remain in play. As does the variable of what gas ends up being sold – the remaining summer-blend stock or the normal fuel.

That said, the same bureaucrats that have so perverted the gasoline market in Allegheny County are the same ones promising to fix it. That’s not a very encouraging thought.

Deep in a Tribune-Review story on a group of Westmoreland County residents’ efforts to emulate national “progressive” attempts to enact an ecocratic “Green New Deal” was this quote from the local group’s co-founder:

“The concept is an overall transformation of our economy to make it work for everyone and to be, in fact, a real New Deal – like the first New Deal (during President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration) that recognized real economic inequalities in our society and came up with solutions.”

Never mind that Roosevelt’s New Deal only exacerbated the Great Depression and laid the footer for government interventions that have repeatedly perverted free markets.

Thus, those who claim the “Green New Deal” is analogous to FDR’s New Deal only affirm that the former would be a horribly bad deal.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).