Driving Decarbonization: How California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard Is Helping the Environment While Saving Lives and Growing the Biobased Economy

September 12, 2018 |

By Bryan Sherbacow, Chief Commercial Officer, World Energy Special to The Digest

As 2018 has made all too clear, climate change is real and it’s impacting all of our lives. July 2018 was the hottest month ever recorded in California. We have dealt with the state’s largest wildfire this summer, just one year after the state’s costliest, most destructive, wildfire season.

Across the U.S., the Northeast experienced record warm overnight low temperatures and unprecedented high humidity. Europe has been blistering this summer, marked by droughts, melting glaciers, and decreased food and grain production. Japan has also experienced record heat and deadly floods throughout the summer.

Despite the impacts of climate change appearing all around us and the broad agreement from the scientific community that greenhouse gas emissions are the cause, the federal government has withdrawn the United States from our commitments in the Paris Agreement.

As a result, it is critical for states to take the lead by implementing climate policies such as low carbon fuel standards (LCFS) to reduce the environmental impact of America’s transportation sector. Moreover, such carbon cutting policies at the state level benefit human health and grow the biobased economy.

To understand a low carbon fuel standard, it’s best to look at California as an example. California is one of two states (neighboring state, Oregon, is the other) to enact a low carbon fuel standard. Typically, these state policies set a limit to the amount of carbon that can be emitted from fuel per unit of energy, which decreases annually. To comply with the rule, fuel companies must reduce the average carbon intensity level of the fuel they sell or buy credits from low carbon fuel suppliers.

California’s LCFS considers the full life cycle of fuel when setting carbon intensity standards. The Air Resources Board calculates carbon emissions not just from combustion on the roadways, but also from production and distribution of the fuel as well.

As a result, California’s LCFS reduces the environmental impact of transportation.

Since 2011, California’s LCFS has prevented more than 13.7 billion gallons of petroleum from being combusted on the state’s roadways. This equates to avoiding 38 million tons of carbon pollution. And as we have already met our 2020 target, we look to make even more gains in the next decade by increasing the carbon reduction targets even further for 2030 and 2050.

The benefits of a low carbon fuel standard, however, extend beyond environmental impact. According to California’s American Lung Association, the state’s low carbon fuel standard has helped Californians avoid $1.84 million in public health costs and averted more than 200 premature deaths from pollution. And as the carbon intensity standards become more stringent, the health benefits stemming from the rule will increase. The state’s lung association, along with the Environmental Defense Fund, reports that by 2025 California’s LCFS, along with cap and trade, will save $8.3 billion in pollution-related health costs and prevent 600 heart attacks, an additional 680 premature deaths, 38,000 asthma attacks and almost 75,000 lost work days.

And more available work days means more capital that can be gained and invested into the economy. Furthermore, low carbon fuel standards increase investment in companies working on new, innovative renewable fuel sources that emit less carbon.

Since its implementation, California’s program has increased the value of the clean fuels market by an estimated $2.8 billion. And as investment in low-carbon fuels increases, the biobased economy – an economy that spans from the farmers in rural America growing corn and other feedstocks to the researchers identifying new processes for creating low carbon fuel to the biorefineries where the fuel is produced and distributed from – strengthens.

With the lack of concrete federal policies to reduce our environmental impact from fuel, it’s now up to the states to take the wheel and drive towards decarbonization.

States should introduce their own low carbon fuel program to reduce their transportation sector’s environmental impact, save lives, and strengthen America’s biobased economy.

At the Global Climate Action Summit this week in San Francisco, I’ll be joined by policymakers and other leaders at an event co-hosted by below50, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization and the Low Carbon Fuels Coalition to explore California’s LCFS as a model for other states and the benefits these type of fuel policies can have. Already, California, Oregon and British Columbia are reaping the benefits of such carbon-cutting policies. If more states implement a LCFS we can strategically reduce our nation’s carbon footprint in a manner that will benefit our nation’s economy, our citizens’ health and the global environment.

For more information about the Global Climate Action Summit visit globalactionclimatesummit.org. To learn more about our discussion at the summit on low carbon fuel standards visit go.bio.org/GCAS.html.

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Category: Thought Leadership

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