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State Wants To Spur Gas Alternatives

Photo caption:


(Photo: Gov. Schwarzenegger delivers keynote address at the International Low Carbon Fuel Standard Symposium. Office of the Governor .)

Need a break from the high gasoline prices?  What if you had an option to use something other than gas? California's proposed Low Carbon Fuel Standard is geared to bring us more choices.  KPBS Environmental Reporter Ed Joyce tells us the policy is also designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

California has the 7th largest economy in the world. The state also is the world's 12th largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions -- about 40-percent of those emissions spew out of our car exhaust pipes. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard requires a reduction in carbon from vehicle fuels of at least 10-percent by 2020. The law's intent is to triple the use of renewable and alternative fuels. Governor Schwarzenegger says the standard will help reduce our dependency on oil.

Benefits of a Low Carbon Fuel Standard

Cut global warming pollution from the passenger vehicle fleet by 10 percent, equivalent to removing 3 million cars from the road.

Displace 20 percent of on-road gasoline consumption with low-carbon fuels, reducing consumption by up to 3.2 billion gallons of gasoline per year, equivalent to the output of 2.5 average-sized California refineries.

Expand the size of the current renewable fuels market in California (already the largest in the nation) by 3 to 5 times. Instead of today’s corn, over half of the ethanol is likely to be made from extremely low-carbon, cellulosic feedstocks such as agricultural waste and switchgrass.

Place on California’s roads more than 7 million alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles, approximately 20 times the number of such vehicles on California’s roads today.

(Source: Low Carbon Fuel Standard Executive Summary )


  • Schwarzenegger: The low carbon fuel standard is our best weapon against rising oil prices and gas prices. Because a vibrant market in alternative fuels and alternative vehicles, alternative engines gives customers a greater choice.

    A University of California team looked at ways of converting the policy to action. The group of environmental scientists, engineers and economists analyzed the combination of fuels and vehicles that could meet the low carbon target. The UC team offered a preview of their study at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory . Lab Director Steve Chu.

    Chu: The plan is expected to displace one-fifth of California's gasoline consumption with lower carbon fuels and put more than 70-million alternative or hybrid vehicles on the roads.

    UC Berkeley Professor Alex Farrell says California can tap its own resources to produce the fuels to power those hybrids.

    Farrell: With innovation and investment in fuel technologies, California may be come close to being able to meet the 2020 target without either significant import of fuels expansion by combining the biofuels, electricity, hydrogen and others or any significant use of land or expansion of land to grow those biofuels, both very important issues. But it takes innovation.

    Steve Levy is the director of a center that studies California's economy. He says the standard will need some enforcement teeth.

    Levy: Once government creates a market through enforceable rules or standards I have great faith in the innovation. But it will happen because the results are mandated or government provides a market through tax credits or incentives.

    The European Union is developing a similar policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels. California is working with the EU to provide a common standard to stimulate production of alternative fuels and vehicles. Governor Schwarzenegger says the critical factor is creating the market.

    Schwarzenegger: Imagine the power of a single universal standard driving competitors in California and New York and Brazil and India and China, Indonesia, and over the world to supply low-carbon products to the trillion-dollar a year international fuel marketplace. The University of California team is showing us what the world could look like in 2020 and way beyond.

    The plan puts a price on carbon pollution. Under the low carbon standard, oil companies can change their fuels to reduce carbon or buy credits from other energy suppliers who have exceeded reduction amounts.

    The Low Carbon Fuel Standard is still being developed. But UC Davis Professor Dan Sperling believes the state is on the right road.

    Sperling: Yes there's uncertainty, yes there's challenges, yes more research is needed. But this is the most important policy initiative in transportation fuels, arguably, ever.

    The UC team's final report on the low carbon fuel standard is expected next week. The state air resources board may create rules for the policy this summer. The new standard could take effect in three years.  Ed Joyce, KPBS News.


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