Wednesday, November 26, 2014

So Which Is It? Do We Hate The EPA Or Do We Love The EPA?

      When it comes to "love-hate" relationships, there isn't a much more intense ambivalence than the one South Dakota Republicans seem to have with the Environmental Protection Agency.  Hardly a day goes by that our GOP Congressional reps Senator John Thune and Congresswoman Kristi Noem don't send out a press release complaining about EPA overreach, land grabs, and regulatory heavy-handedness.
     One example of EPA-hatred by the GOP surfaced today in that party's chief blogospheric honk Dakota War College, which unfailingly keeps its readers abreast of every opportunity for slamming the federal Agency and its mandates.  The site posted this morning that South Dakotans who are served by the Otter Tail Power company (in and around Milbank, per the company's website--along with a number of communities in ND and MN) will soon be seeing a 12% increase in their rates in order to pay for compliance with EPA regulations that are part of the so-called "war on coal."  
    A few posts prior, also dated today, has a press release denouncing another EPA proposal by Senator Thune.  Thune says that an Agency-proposed tax on ozone would be a "gut punch to low, middle income Americans."  He calls the plan a "disturbing, though not suprising" action from the Obama administration, that it's the "most expensive regulation in history," and notes that its timing on the "eve of the Thanksgiving holiday" makes it even more egregious.  
     As to Congresswoman Noem's contempt for EPA . . . whoooeee.  A week ago she tweeted that a proposed water management regulation was "one of the largest land grabs in our history," apparently unaware of land-annexation (read:  theft) events in the 19th century that my Indian friends could detail without much prompting.  Noem's hyper-reaction to the measure is typical of her rhetoric when it's aimed at the Environmental Protection Agency.  
     Considering Noem just won re-election with a huge majority and that Thune ran unopposed for re-election in 2012, we have to conclude that a sizable majority of South Dakotans are on the same page as these Agency haters when that scorn suits their economic and political needs.  
     But then what about the "love" side of the coin I alluded to in my lead?  Oh, believe me, there's plenty of love between South Dakotans and the EPA.  How so?  Can you spell E-T-H-A-N-O-L?  Honestly, for all of the contempt directed at the Agency by people in this state, how can they possibly criticize its mandate-authority when South Dakota's largest industry has gotten a giant boost by perhaps the EPA's biggest mandate of all--The Renewable Fuel Standard? EPA's "mandating" authority is in establishing and enforcing regulations required to support RFS.  It's undeniable that grain and oilseed prices (corn and soybeans, for the most part) have gotten significantly higher since the Renewable Fuel Standard requiring corn-based ethanol to become a significant percentage of motor fuel in this country went into effect a few years back.
    As a former grain trader and broker of many years standing, that conclusion is crystal clear to me and others in the trade.  For some academic corroboration, here's a 2012 study from the Ag Economics Department at UC-Davis that concludes that were it not for the RFS mandate, corn prices would be 40% lower.  Yes, prices have recently fallen, but believe me, they'd be much lower without ethanol demand propping them up.  And when corn prices go up, all grain and oilseed prices go up with them because of the substitution that results from users scrambling for supplies of other grains. Of some irony, Congresswoman Noem just got a "Friend of the Farm Bureau" award.  Guess which farm organization is the most strident in its support for the RFS and fights tooth and nail against any proposal to reduce it?   Yep, the Farm Bureau.  Do you suppose the honchos at the FB haven't gotten the word that their "Friend" cannot stand the very agency that makes the RFS possible?
     Apparently, EPA mandates that affect hundreds of millions of Americans while giving South Dakotans a huge economic gain are okay.  But when EPA turns around and directs mandates at us, how do we react?  With all the scorn and contempt that we can muster up.  So who cares if what's good for the mandate-loving goose is anathema to the mandate-hating gander?  Certainly not the political opportunists in our midst.  


  1. It's not just Republicans and the EPA. I heard similar comments from a Democratic rancher this week while we chatted in the aisle of the grocery store. Apparently that water bill has them worried their cows peeing in the water here will be outlawed on behalf of the oceans, or something. I would be more worried about crop land run-off, but I simply said that sometimes I do worry environmentalists want to legislate humans out of the natural world equation, which is idiotic and definitely not Lakota. Anywho, glad to hear someone knowledgeable connect the dots with ethanol and corn prices.

  2. John, it's the classic stuck between a rock and a hardplace our congressional rubber stamps find themselves in. They have to keep throwing bones to their radical base to keep them fired up and in the game, but at the same time, they know what side of the bread is truly buttered and who is buttering it. Rounds will be joining the clown show in a month or so, at that point we as South Dakotans will have nothing on the federal level. I hate to say this John, but this is what the voters here have chosen, I hope it turns out ok for them.

  3. All political rhetoric. Noem reminds me of Pressler in how she has 2 or 3 key words she repeats every time she speaks. Pressler's keys words when in office were farmers and seniors. Noem's key words always involve EPA.

    Work with the other party. Constantly criticizing the other side just makes the other side more stubborn. Thune, Noem (and Rounds when he gets to Washington) are just as much the problem as the other 98 Senators and 434 Representatives!