Making the case for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard

It is fitting that the Western States Petroleum Association’s latest critique of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard invoked a 22-year-old desperado movie. The message that Californians should continue to rely exclusively on a single fuel for our cars and trucks, much of which comes from unstable sources, is outdated. And just like Thelma and Louise, it’s reckless.

California’s economy is built on innovation. We are a state that looks forward, not back. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) is poised to advance that legacy while revitalizing the state’s economy by attracting new investment and creating jobs in the growing clean fuels industry. By guaranteeing a diverse mix of alternative fuels and vehicles, the LCFS will protect consumers from the price volatility that is a byproduct of a lack of fuel diversity and consumer choice.

So it’s disappointing that those who oppose clean fuels policies continue to reference debunked research and ignore the successes of these programs in spurring needed investment and offering consumers increasing choices in vehicles and fuels. We want to set the record straight.

A new report from the ICF International consulting firm shows that the LCFS is ready to roll, and that the alternative fuels market has evolved much faster than anticipated. For example, sales of electric vehicles are three times the sales of their hybrid counterparts when hybrids were first introduced. The surge in natural gas supply is helping decrease the carbon intensity in the transportation of merchandise, and biodiesel and renewable diesel are being consumed in much higher quantities than ever before. The bottom line of the report is that the technology is here now to produce cleaner fuels, and companies are already producing the clean fuels to meet the standard and consumer demand.

Californians are ready. They are buying electric vehicles at rates much higher than the U.S. average, the driving experience and being able to plug in at home factor in greatly to Californians choosing these very clean cars. Paying the equivalent of about $1.50 per gallon to use electricity as a fuel isn’t lost on consumers either. California fleets including taxis, communications service vans, refuse haulers, package delivery vans, and long-haul trucks are switching to natural gas to cut their fuel bills by 40% or more. Meanwhile, the state’s drivers also are rapidly increasing their consumption of biodiesel, up from the range of 20 – 25 million gallons in 2010. In fact, the ICF report declared, “2013 promises to be a banner year for biodiesel consumption in California.”

The LCFS allows for a gradual phase in of alternative fuels, enabling for a smooth transition and build-out. It also gives oil companies maximum flexibility to meet the standard, by blending their fuel with advanced biofuels and improved conventional biofuels, cleaning up existing oil production facilities, or by participating in the growing transportation fuels market with natural gas, electricity, and hydrogen.

Our state’s economy is gradually improving, and millions of Californians are working together to build a cleaner and stronger economy – including creating a diverse mix of cleaner transportation fuels that will save families money at the pump. It’s important to acknowledge that much of the good news from California’s emerging fuel sector has come during a continuing national recession, and as the economy recovers we can expect even faster progress. Rather than fighting against clean fuels policies that are clearly working, we all need to collectively focus where California consumers are focused and embrace our clean fuels future.

Ed’s Note: Eileen Tutt is executive director of the California Electric Transportation Coalition. Tim Carmichael is President of the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition.

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