California air board readopts ambitious low-carbon fuel standard

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) readopted a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) that requires a 10% reduction in transportation fuels’ carbon intensity by 2020.

“This program is a key element of California’s plans to enact [Gov. Jerry Brown’s] executive order mandating a 50% cut in petroleum use by 2030,” CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols said following the board’s action.

Adoption of the state’s original LCFS was frozen by a legal challenge, CARB said. It readopted the regulation on Sept. 25 to address a court ruling and to strengthen after it heard public testimony a day earlier on the matter.

At that hearing, which CARB had rescheduled from July, the Western States Petroleum Association expressed continued concern over many facets of the LCFS program and doubts about its feasibility, particularly whether the 10% carbon reduction in the next 5 years can be achieved.

“While there have been some advances in the biofuels technology since the standard was introduced in 2007, there are still not enough low-carbon biofuels available in sufficient quantities to allow refiners to comply with the regulations,” WSPA Pres. Catherine Reheis-Boyd said in a separate Sept. 24 statement.

“In addition, the vastly accelerated compliance schedule proposed by CARB puts even more upward pressure on fuel costs,” she said. “Since the compliance schedule has been frozen for the past 3 years, it would be inaccurate to call the current program a success.”

The board said its readopted LCFS includes modifications developed with stakeholder input, including:

• Incorporating additional cost containment in response to stakeholder concerns about possible price spikes by including a mechanism to cap LCFS credit price.

• Streamlining the application process for alternative fuel producers seeking a carbon intensity score.

• Improving the process for earning LCFS credits by charging electric vehicles.

CARB also adopted a regulation governing alternative diesel fuels on Sept. 25, which it said puts a three-step process in place beginning in 2016 to bring cleaner diesel fuels to market. The regulation also establishes requirements and fuel specifications for biodiesel to ensure nitrogen oxide emissions from the fuel will not increase, and will be reduced over time, the stage agency indicated.

“This is not an academic exercise. It’s where the rubber hits the road in determining where Californians get their fuels for the next 20 or 30 years,” National Biodiesel Board Sustainability Director Don Scott said. “It's the difference between continuing the status quo of oil dependence and stimulating the development of cleaner alternatives.”

CARB said that other programs that will result in a decreased use of petroleum while helping achieve the 40% GHG reduction by 2030 that Brown called for include advanced clean car regulations that deliver greater fuel efficiency, the zero-emission vehicle mandate putting more electric and hydrogen powered cars on the streets, and the state’s efforts under SB 375 to develop more livable, walkable communities and improve public transit.

Contact Nick Snow at

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