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Rick Santorum In 2008: What We Need Is A Government Mandate!

Rick Santorum has spent a great deal of his time on the campaign trail criticizing the health insurance mandate in the Affordable Care Act, but two years ago he was arguing in favor of a different kind of government mandate:

What we need is a government mandate! We need to mandate that all cars sold in the United States, starting with the 2010 model year, be “flex-fuel vehicles” – that is, they should be able to run on a blend that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline (the so-called E85 blend), or even a coal-derived methanol/gas mixture. This mandate would cost a fraction of the new fuel economy standard with the added benefit of saving barrels more oil.

Tell me Senator, which part of the Constitution authorizes Congress to impose that mandate?

H/T: Buzzfeed

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hey Norm says:

    hMMM…I guess both sides do do it.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Hey Norm: HA! I’ll bet you just put a smile on Doug’s face.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Hey Norm says:

    Evidently Romney is now saying the size of Government grew 80% while Santorum was in Congress.
    What Romney never says is that we all paid for Romneycare…because it was funded by the Federal Government.
    Pot…meet kettle.

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  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Regarding the question presented about Constitutional authority the author is barking up the wrong tree. There’s a difference between mandating on the production side and mandating on the consumption side. The main problem with this suggestion by Santorum is that it’s FUBAR, irrespective of Commerce Clause viability.

    First off, a E-85 mandate for cars would be a subsidy on top of a subsidy on top of a subsidy. Ethanol directly is subsidized by taxpayers. Blended gas is subsidized by taxpayers through the back door, via tax credits. Compliant vehicles would need to be subsidized to be cost competitive. For a Republican to advocate for this is beyond the pale.

    Second, the fuel distribution industry at the retail level is not geared up for the E-85 blend. That blend is deadly to every engine that’s not specifically manufactured to take that blend. Ergo at your local service stations there would need to be separate tanks and dispensers for E-85 fuel. Who’s going to pay for that? Certainly not the station owners. Those guys skate by on their C-store sales; gas and diesel sales often are loss leaders for them. Certainly the wholesalers are not going to pay for E-85 tanks and dispensers. Those companies work on gross margins of one penny per gallon. Big oil isn’t going to pay for those upgrades. They own but a tiny fraction of the service stations and even if they were mandated to make those upgrades on stations carrying their brands what do you do about the independents?

    In a sense Santorum’s E-85 mandate would be tantamount to a giant unfunded mandate of nothingness. If enacted there would be a whole host of new cars able to run E-85, but in the end they’d be filling up in any event with normal gasoline or with normal (E-10) blended gasoline.

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  5. Barb Hartwell says:

    Thank goodness for video and audio recordings It cracks me up how they try to lie their way out of things.

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  6. Scott O. says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: I’ve heard this idea before, not sure how good of an idea it is. Flex fuel vehicles can run on gas or E-85 blend so all stations wouldn’t have to carry E-85. I guess the argument in favor goes like this:

    Entrepreneurs would start small ethanol or methanol processing plants wherever a somewhat steady supply of vegetable or wood scraps were available if there were a local market for their product. If all cars were flex fuel there would be that market. This will reduce our dependence on imported oil.

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  7. IFeelSoCheapAndDirty says:

    Tell me Senator, which part of the Constitution authorizes Congress to impose that mandate?

    Uhhh, the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause authorizes Congress to impose such a mandate. This would be the same Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause that authorized Congress to impose the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. (Cf., e.g., Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005) (concurring opinion of Justice Scalia detailing the VERY BROAD powers of Congress under the Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause based on the US Constitution and Supreme Court precedent).)

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-1454.ZC.html

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  8. @Scott O.:

    It’s one of my triumphs that I ran the math, and then the idea spread out.

    Basically, it is hard enough to do E10 everywhere (with 10% ethanol as an MTBE replacement) that we don’t need to worry about E85 and 85% ethanol.

    Ethanol has a market as an “additive.” Oh, there were dreams of cheap and easy ethanol production, celulosic production from switchgrass or whatever, but they never panned out. Ethanol, without subsidies, is more expensive and less powerful than gasoline (or natural gas, another realistic alternative).

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  9. (The only good thing you can say about an E85 mandate is that it was cheap to do. It was less than $100 per car, if I recall correctly. Of course, on the bad side, those proud “flex fuel” badges that GM put on their SUVs don’t really mean anything. Those big cars and trucks still suck the fuel, whether it is gasoline or subsidized ethanol.)

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  10. @Tsar Nicholas:

    Actually Ethanol is NOT Subsidized..the blenders credit ended in Dec 2011. Without any Subsidy Ethanol is trading for $1.00 LESS per gallon than Gasoline..

    Chicago Board of Trade

    Secondly there are already around 10 million E85 Flex Fuel Vehicles on the Road AND nearly 3,000 Stations selling E85

    3rdly ..it cost less than $100 for General Motors / Ford etc.. to turn a Non Flex Fuel Vehicle into a Flex Flex Fuel (the main difference is simply a the fuel mapping (software) all the parts of a non FFV are the same as on a FFV has been for decades

    Now I know you don’t believe me on the costs so here you go right from the horses mouth so to speak .. General Motors Vice President of production operations ..”

    GM has produced more than 5 million flex-fuel vehicles worldwide to date, Stephens says, and accounts for about 4 million of the 7.5 million FFVs on U.S. roads today. It says it costs between $10 and $70 per vehicle, depending on the model, to add E85 compatibility.

    Again the reason it costs so little is because it is simply a software setup.. specifically the fuel maps.. (sometimes they use a larger fuel injector)

    The Model T ran on 100% ethanol..it just isn’t a big deal. (Most people simply believe the scare tactics Big Oil Propaganda machine has spewed out about ethanol over the years ..without really educating themselves on the topic)

    As much as I cant stand Santorum he is correct that every vehicle coming off the assembly line should at bare minimum be a FFV .. not for the 3,000 E85 Stations today but so that 10 years from now when there are 30,000 , 60,000 Stations that sell E85 as well as E20, E30, E40…E85 that at least every vehicle made in the last ten years can take advantage of running on ANY fuel blend .

    GM, Ford Toyota etc.. every vehicle made for Brazil is a FFV ..consumers can run on any blend in Brazil..from Gasoline to 100% ethanol..they have their own Oil and the have their own ethanol production

    Considering we bailed out the Auto Industry ..requiring..yes mandating that every vehicle be a FFV (considering how inexpensive it is) shouldn’t be a big deal.

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  11. @john personna:

    Ethanol is NOT more expensive than Gasoline..it simply isn’t true..

    In FACT..in FACT ..Ethanol is selling for $1.00 LESS per gallon than Gasoline on the commodities Market

    Gasoline is selling to $3.24 and Ethanol for $2.21 (without any subsidies)

    All Doubting Thomas’s http://www.cmegroup.com/trading/energy/

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