In my line of work to protect public health and the environment from car and truck pollution, one of the largest barriers continues to be the lack of clean, alternative fuel choices. For every fifteen gasoline stations you drive by, on average only one will offer an alternative fuel option.
That virtual monopoly by the oil industry may soon change, based on a report released today by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and E4Tech, Potential Low-Carbon Fuel Supply to the Pacific Region of North America. The researchers found that the Pacific Coast region can greatly diversify its fuel mix through an abundance of low carbon fuels, which could provide over a quarter of our transportation energy by 2030, a three-fold increase versus today’s levels.
These potential supplies of low-carbon fuels can be largely driven by clean fuel standards, according to the study, that are already adopted or being proposed in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and California, creating one of the world’s largest clean fuels market. Governors from these states and the Premier of British Columbia signed the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate Change in 2013, which committed the jurisdictions to develop and adopt clean fuel standards and other climate policies in their jurisdictions.
The researchers analyzed eight different fuel scenarios, using a range of both conservative and optimistic assumptions, and found that the clean fuel standards across the region can be achieved. A mix of alternative fuels, such as clean electricity, renewable diesel, biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, and biomethane, could be utilized to reduce the carbon-intensity of fuels by 14 to 21% by 2030. These reductions translate to 40 to 60 million tons of carbon pollution avoided, or the equivalent of the annual emissions from 8 to 13 million passenger vehicles.
Despite oil industry attacks on clean fuel standards up and down the coast, including the recently leaked document revealing the industry’s creation and funding of 16 front groups purporting to be business and consumer organizations, the ICCT/E4Tech study demonstrates the feasibility of meeting the standards and the ability to diversify the transportation energy mix. It’s high time to move forward and not backwards.
Here’s what’s happening state by state in the U.S.
California adopted a low carbon fuel standard as part of the Global Solution Act in 2006. The standard requires oil companies to provide cleaner alternative fuels–like electricity, advanced biofuels, and biogas – or to also clean up their own petroleum operations to directly lower their carbon emissions. The flexible nature of the requirements allow oil refineries and distributors to gradually provide cleaner fuels over time, ensuring that these clean fuels are economically viable and readily available to our citizens.
The standard has provided valuable incentives to both small and large clean fuel businesses, helped diversify the state’s fuel supply, and reduce public health burdens, according to a study by American Lung Association and EDF. California’s Air Resources Board, which implements the program, will be voting on readoption of the program this February.
On Jan. 7, 2015, the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission approved rules to advance the state’s Oregon Clean Fuels Program. The rules go into effect February 1, 2015. These clean fuel standards require Oregon’s transportation fuels to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent over a 10-year period.
The standards also establish a clean fuel credit providers of clean fuels can sell to fuel suppliers who choose to buy the credits in lieu of incorporating more lower-carbon biofuels, natural gas, biogas, propane or electricity into their fuel mix.
The next step for implementation of the Clean Fuels Program will be to have the Oregon Legislature review the program and to lift an existing sunset on the program for Dec. 31, 2015. All eyes will be on Oregon to continue their leadership role in taking action on climate change. Click here to learn more and help endorse Oregon’s clean fuels program.
On Dec 17, Governor Jay Inslee proposed Carbon Pollution Accountability Act that would create a new, market-based program that limits carbon pollution and requires major polluters to pay for their emissions.
The Washington Office of Financial Management also commissioned a technical feasibility and economic analysis, conducted by Lifecycle Associates, that shows the clean fuel standard could be met and yield positive economic benefits, particularly if in-state alternative fuels production reduces crude imports. Governor Inslee has asked the Department of Ecology to draft a clean fuel standard rule and to solicit review and comments from legislators, stakeholders and the public. The standard is in the review phase now.
If the Pacific Coast is to help diversify its energy mix, move to renewables, and protect public health and our climate, it will need to continue taking bold steps, including rejecting the oil industry’s efforts to stop climate policies from being adopted. The Pacific Coast can be a model for the rest of the country and internationally for adopting policies that will expand the clean fuels market. Today’s report shows that it can be done.
This article was originally published on NRDC and was republished with permission.
Lead image: Biofuel via Shutterstock