As reported this week by the CBC, a mystery involving strange cross-border train traffic has been linked to possible fraudin a green-energy credit program.
Basically, by shipping the same load of bio-disel back and forth across the international border valuable credits could be created, without activity of any ecological value taking place. (The subject is sufficiently complicated to warrant clicking through the source articles, should you wish to learn more.)
CBC reports that CN Rail is promising full cooperation with the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as those agencies investigate further.
This is not the first time programs that generate energy credits known as renewable identification numbers, or R.I.N.’s. have run into concerns about accountability. As explained in a July 2012 New York Times article about other fraud cases in the U.S.:
Biodiesel producers registered with the E.P.A., and every gallon of fuel they produced generated a number known as an R.I.N. The numbers are bought and sold by traders, who broker deals with petroleum companies that need to fulfill their renewable fuel obligations.
More about the Renewable Fuels Standards Program (RSF2) and RINS can be found at this EPA FAQ page.
Incidents like these do raise some basic questions about various programs, however well-intended.
Here’s a start:
1. Does an identifiable problem exist?
2. If so, does the proposed solution genuinely remedy said problem?
3. Is the program vulnerable to fraud/waste/abuse?
4. How can said program be measured for results and be protected against exploitation?
Few taxpayers favor fraud and outright criminality. But situations like these frequently expose a large chasm of distrust. One faction believes government programs can help solve large societal issues. Another see government programs or intervention as part of the problem.
Here, then, is a question for each side:
Pro-government faction: Can government programs be effective and avoid fraud/waste?
Anti-government faction: Do you seriously think the private sector can solve problems without government restraint?