California adopts low carbon fuel standard

By By Kris Bevill | April 15, 2009
Web exclusive posted April 27, 2009, at 11:52 p.m. CST

Following months of consideration and public commentary sessions, members of the California Air Resources Board held a final day-long hearing April 23 to consider the adoption of a low-carbon fuel standard. Board members voted 9-1 in favor of the regulation, setting in motion a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the state by 16 million metric tons by 2020 and to require biofuel producers to meet "carbon intensity" standards, which include indirect land-use change (ILUC) considerations.

From its inception, the inclusion of ILUC in California's standard sparked controversy among members of the scientific community. At issue is whether or not ILUC can be accurately measured. As well, the ethanol industry has lobbied that ethanol is being held to unfair standards because petroleum producers would not be required to include ILUC in their carbon calculations.

CARB members agreed in their vote to reconsider the ILUC portion of the standard a bright note in an otherwise dismal decision for the ethanol industry. The Renewable Fuels Association expressed disappointment in the passage of the standard but said members are confident the work group assigned to reassess the land-use analysis will determine a more balanced assessment of indirect GHG effects on all fuels. "Adopting this standard sets a dangerous precedent about the application of unproven science to industries across the country," RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen said. "In unfairly penalizing ethanol, ARB is relegating California to more petroleum use as biofuels are the only viable alternative liquid fuel."
Industry group Growth Energy also expressed its disappointment with CARB's decision. "This was a poor decision, based on shaky science, not only for California, but for the nation," said Growth Energy co-chairman Gen. Wesley Clark. "It is unfair to selectively single out the indirect effects of one fuel pathway while ignoring the significant indirect effects of all other fuels, including petroleum." Clark said California's decision will stifle the development of the cellulosic ethanol industry.

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said that if the work group establishes ILUC standards for all fuels, including petroleum, the ethanol industry will prosper. "We're very supportive of a low-carbon fuel standard because ethanol is a low-carbon fuel," he said. "Corn ethanol can thrive if all fuel pathways are calculated on a level playing field."

Source: Ethanol Producer Magazine
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