Kimberley Strassel | Cronyism: Washington’s latest special favor

Of the nation’s 143 refineries, one was exempted from the EPA’s ethanol mandate. Why?

For a glimpse at the secret, special-favors factory that Washington has become under President Obama, check out this week’s big news out of the Environmental Protection Agency. Or rather, look beyond the headlines to the corporate handout hidden within.

The big news was that the EPA issued—finally—its infamous annual quota for renewable fuels. That mandate tells the nation’s refineries how much renewable fuel (ethanol) must be blended annually into gasoline, a quota that is becoming a pernicious driver of gas prices. The EPA was supposed to release the 2013 quota last November but decided to leave the industry in panicked uncertainty until now.

The 89-page rule is dull reading, until you get to page 11. Tucked on that page is one short sentence, which reads: “EPA has approved a single small refinery/small refiner exemption for 2013, so an adjustment has been made to the standards to account for this exemption.” In English: Of the nation’s 143 refineries, one (and only one) lucky player somehow had the pull to win itself a free pass from this government burden. Not only that, the rest of the industry gets to pick up its slack.

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