Question for you, dear friends: If you are a billionaire and you own a successful oil refinery, among other things, how can you possibly be said to have a ‘financial hardship’? Think on that one and let me know if you come up with an answer, for Filosofa is stymied.
Carl Icahn is an American businessman and investor. If you look him up, you will find that he is also said to be a philanthropist, but I find almost no instances of actual philanthropy. He benefitted from his reputation as a corporate raider in the 1980s when he helped engineer the hostile takeover and asset-stripping of Trans-World Airlines (TWA).
Carl Icahn’s latest estimated net worth is $17.7 billion. For perspective, that is $17,700,000,000. At least, I think that’s the right number of zeros. Despite a lifetime spent in public and private accounting, I never really worked with numbers incorporating so many zeros. But back to the point … Carl Icahn is one of the wealthiest people in the nation … in the world. Think George Soros is wealthy? His net worth is about one-half that of Icahn’s. Last year, Icahn was named 26th wealthiest person in the world by Forbes magazine.
Now, Mr. Icahn is the major shareholder in CVR Energy, an oil refinery located in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. Last year, 2017, CVR posted net earnings of $234.4 million. So, you with me here? The man is rich … filthy rich … and he owns lots of businesses, one an oil refinery that is doing very well … net earnings in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Now for the kicker … the Environmental Protection Agency under the direction of another millionaire, Scott Pruitt, has granted Icahn’s company, CVR Energy, a financial hardship waiver from compliance with fuel standards regulations. A financial … hardship … waiver. Please forgive me for what I am about to say, and I don’t say it on this blog often, but WTF???
It might help explain things a bit if we remember that Icahn was an advisor to Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign, and served as a ‘special regulatory advisor’ in the Trump administration, but stepped down last August in light of charges of conflict of interest, as he spent his time attempting to change biofuel policies. In fact, Senator Tammy Duckworth asked the FBI to open a criminal investigation on Icahn last August. He is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for his efforts to influence biofuel policies to benefit his own company.
Now, we all remember that Trump is doing his best to rescind or roll back every single regulation that was put into place under the Obama administration, right? But this … RFS – Renewable Fuel Standards – is a regulation put into force by the EPA in 2005 under the Energy Policy Act. Who was president in 2005? Why, I do believe it was republican George W. Bush!!! The bill was overwhelmingly supported by members of Congress from both parties.
RFS requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels. I will not bore you with details that my science-challenged mind** does not fully comprehend, but the goal is to cut air pollution, reduce petroleum imports and support corn farmers by requiring refiners to mix billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel each year. The purpose of the financial hardship waiver is to protect small refineries for whom the cost of compliance with RFS would create such a burden that it could even put them out of business. Such is not the case with CVR. However, CVR has applied for the waiver every year for the past several years, and until this year, has always been denied. In fact, until last year, only 8 waivers were approved each year, but under Scott Pruitt’s EPA, approximately 25 per year are being approved.
Andeavor, one of America’s biggest refining companies, which reported about $1.5 billion in net profit last year, is among the other companies that have received hardship waivers from Trump’s/Pruitt’s EPA for small refineries. I wonder if that ‘alternative vocabulary’ that Kellyanne told us about in January 2017, has re-defined the word ‘small’?
CVR estimates that the cost of compliance with RFS would run to about $80 million for fiscal 2018. Let’s see … $80 million from their $234.4 million net profit … would still leave them a net profit of $154.4 million. Excuse me, but from where I sit, with a net income of under $7,000 per year, that really doesn’t sound like what I would define as ‘hardship’. Especially for the 26th wealthiest man in the world!
If you have ever had any doubts that this nation has become a plutocracy, a government by the wealthy, for the wealthy and of the wealthy, you can probably shelve those doubts now. And if you were unclear about how much value the Trump administration places on protecting our environment, I think this should clarify matters nicely for you. “What can I do?”, you ask. Vote these greedy republicans out of office on November 6th. It may be your last chance to make a difference, to be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem.
** An interesting side note: In doing research for this post, trying to wrap my non-scientific mind around the concept of ‘biofuels’, I found a reference link to the EPA’s Energy Information Agency. The page has been removed from the EPA’s website. Hmmmm … 🤔