California Pushes Through Low-Carbon Fuels

by | Apr 24, 2009

biofuels-field2California’s Air Resources Board voted to adopt a regulation that will put in place Governor Schwarzenegger’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which mandates a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the state’s transportation fuels by 10 percent by 2020.

The regulations should increase the market for alternative-fuel vehicles and achieve 16 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2020, according to a press release. The regulation falls in line with California’s AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act (Nunez, 2006).

The Air Resources Board estimates that, in order to produce the more than 1.5 billion gallons of biofuels needed for compliance, at least 25 new biofuel facilities must be built, creating more than 3,000 new jobs.

The regulation means that providers, refiners, importers and blenders must prove that their California fuels meet an average declining standard of “carbon intensity,” a figure related to the sum of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, transportation and consumption of a fuel.

The measure is not without its critics.

The New Fuels Alliance has been against the regulation, because it considers the indirect effects of biofuels production — the fuel needed to grow and harvest vegetation for biofuels. The alliance gathered 100 scientists to oppose the measure.

For instance, California’s corn ethanol producers said the regulations unfairly targets their industry to account for “indirect land use change,” including the notion that crop-based biofuels inflate grain prices, leading farmers elsewhere to convert carbon-sinks like forests into crop fields, which produce carbon, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

California will provide seed-funding for early development and deployment of the most promising low-carbon fuels. The Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, AB 118 (Nunez, 2007), managed by the California Energy Commission, provides for $120 million dollars annually over seven years, according to the release.

It’s predicted that new fuels may come from algae, wood, agricultural waste such as straw, common invasive weeds such as switchgrass, as well as municipal solid waste.

The standard also should be a boon to plug-in hybrid, battery electric and fuel-cell powered cars, along with the accompanying investments in electric charging stations and hydrogen fueling stations, the Air Resources Board said.

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