When we needed to buy new cars last year, my wife and I settled on two late-model used cars – she, a 2009 minivan and me, a 2008 sedan. One thing we noticed right away were the headrests. They were leaning forward in a way that the older cars did not, and they leaned forward in a way that was a little more uncomfortable than before. Just Google the problem and you will see we are not alone in our complaint.
The headrests come to mind whenever ethanol opponents of a more conservative or libertarian persuasion tell me we need to get rid of ethanol “mandates” like the Renewable Fuel Standard. The fact is, so much in the car you drive is a mandate of one sort or another – sometimes for auto safety, sometimes for energy efficiency, sometimes for cleaner air. Sometimes, government bureacrats mandate things just because they can.
So, here’s the thing. Take away the RFS and there is still “mandated” fuel at the pumps. Gas station owners can’t just put whatever they want in their pumps, just as consumers are prevented by federal law from mixing alternative fuels themselves. Opposing the RFS because it may be a mandate is pointless.
But there is one ethanol approach that should have libertarians rejoicing. With its E15 waiver, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is allowing gas stations to offer more choice. It’s not a “mandate,” as ethanol opponents wrongly charge – it’s an option.
Taken to its next logical level, the idea of blender pumps allow even more fuel freedom for those who want a greater say in what goes into their car. We’re not forcing a fuel on consumers, we’re liberating the pumps.
Now, if we could just get the headrest problem fixed.
Image courtesy Tricia Braid