California works to reduce GHG emissions

By Erin Voegele | April 14, 2009
California is proceeding with plans to implement a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) that would seek to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the state's transportation fuels by 10 percent by 2020.

In March, the California Air Resources Board released its proposed regulation to implement the LCFS, which would diversify the variety of fuels available within the state, boost markets for alternative fuels. The regulation also requires fuel providers, refiners, importers and blenders to ensure the fuel that they provide for the California market meets an average declining standard of carbon intensity, determined by examining the fuel pathwaythe sum of GHG emissions associated with the production, transportation and consumption of the fuel. According to CARB, some fuel pathways also result in the release of additional GHG emissions through the conversion of forestlands and other carbon-containing habitats, known as indirect land-use changes (ILUC).

CARB's inclusion of ILUC to determine the carbon-intensity of fuel is challenged by many scientists and some biofuels industry leaders. In March, 111 scientists from Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a wide variety of universities submitted a letter to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stating that enforcement of ILUC is highly premature, that the science is far too limited and uncertain for regulatory enforcement, and that indirect effects are often misunderstood and should not be enforced selectively. A public hearing on CARB's LCFS proposal was scheduled for April 23-24.

The state is also seeking to set standards to control GHG emissions from motor vehicles. Before this policy can be implemented, U.S. EPA must approve a waiver request. The waiver, originally submitted in December 2005, was denied in March 2008 by then EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. In January, California asked current EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to reconsider, and President Barack Obama requested the EPA reconsider the denial. An EPA spokeswoman told EPM that the agency has no estimate of when a final decision on the waiver will be issued.