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California adopts “low carbon fuel standard”

Yesterday, the Air Resources Board of the state of California adopted a regulation that will implement the “Low Carbon Fuel Standard” of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Standard calls for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels used in California by 10% by the year 2020.

In early 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger issued the executive order requiring a low carbon fuel standard. The order directed the state to drive down greenhouse gases from the transportation sector, which accounts for 40% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the state. The regulation is designed to replace 20% of the fuel used by transportation in California by clean, alternative fuels (including electricity, biofuels, hydrogen, and others) by 2020.

You can read about the reaction from Jonathan Skillings, managing editor of CNET News, here.

The new regulation seeks to diversify the fuels used for transportation in California by boosting the market for vehicles that use alternative fuels and thus achieve a reduction of 16 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Officials of the Air Resources Board describe the regulation as the most important early action of AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act (Nunez, 2006).

To produce the more than 1.5 billion gallons of biofuels needed, more than 25 new biofuel facilities will have to be constructed, according to Air Resources Boad analyses, creating more than 3000 new jobs, predominantly in rural areas of California. Such in-state production of biofuels seeks to keep consumer dollars local by reduction of fuel imports from outside of California.

(Note added April 25, 2009: I have two comments. 1. This in-state production of biofuels, while good for employment, also fits in well with the NIH [Not Invented Here] Syndrome that I have noticed in California, probably as a result of its geographic isolation by distance, deserts, mountains, and ocean and also by the personality types of people who traveled here and reproduced here. 2. I am delighted by the amount of traffic that this entry has received since I wrote it last evening, which suggests a lot of readers in other parts of the world. The issue is EXTREMELY important of course. Hopefully, similar actions will occur in other states and nations.)

An important aspect of the regulation requires providers, refiners, importers, and blenders to ensure that the fuels they provide to California meet an average declining standard of “carbon intensity.” Carbon intensity is established by a determination of the sum of greenhouse gas emissions in the “fuel pathway,” the production, transportation, and consumption of fuel. The most cost-effective clean fuels (those with the lowest carbon intensity) will be determined in the marketplace, by providing consumers with the widest variety of fuel options.

California is also providing funding to assist in the development and deployment of the most promising low-carbon-intensity fuels. Approximately $120 million per year over seven years will be provided by the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, AB 118 (Nunez, 2007), managed by the California Energy Commission.

The new generation of fuels is expected to come from technologies utilizing algae, wood, agricultural wastes, weeds such as switchgrass, and municipal solid wastes. The standard is expected to drive the availability of plugin hybrid, battery electric, and fuel-cell-powered cars and promote investment in hydrogen-fueling stations and electric-charging stations.

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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