California air board adopts changes to low carbon fuel standard

By Erin Voegele | December 21, 2011

While some supporters of the biofuels industry have criticized California’s low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) in the past for failing to account for the increased carbon value associated with the extraction of some crude oils used to produce petroleum-based transportation fuels when the carbon value of biofuels are considered on a full life-cycle basis, a recent move by the state’s Air Resources Board (CARB) seems to take steps towards rectifying that inequality. In mid-December, CARB voted to introduce changes to the regulation that improve how the LCFS regulation accounts for the carbon intensity of crude oils.

According to a statement released by CARB, the carbon intensity of crude oils can vary significantly, with heavy crudes generally having a higher carbon footprint. The amendments put forth by CARB would require that the carbon intensity of crudes be fully accounted for under the LCFS, just as they are for other fuels regulated by the program.

"The Low Carbon Fuel Standard is an essential part of California’s program to move away from dirty fuels and toward a clean energy future,” said Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols. “These changes streamline the program. They ensure that we accurately account for every gram of carbon released during the extraction and transportation of unrefined fossil fuels, no matter where they come from."

A staff report published by CARB last fall outlines the proposed amendments to the LCFS. According to the document, the amendment would make several changes to the LCFS, including to revise the carbon intensity for California Reformulated Gasoline Blendstock for Oxygenate Blending (CARBOB) and ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) due to the production and transport of crude oil to California refiners to reflect crude supplies used in 2009. It would also rescind the current approach for mitigating emissions greater than a baseline, and establish a modified approach for mitigating higher emissions attributable to increases in crude production and transport.

A public comment on the amendment filed by Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council, noted that the AEC supports proper accounting for the incremental carbon deficits from the use of high carbon intensity crude oil (HCICO). The comment states that the LCFS requires detailed documentation and regulatory accountability from the point of origin of the biofuel feedstock through the production process and path to market. “We believe the LCFS should eliminate, to the greatest degree possible, any compliance inequities that exist among the many compliance fuels relative to petroleum‐based fuels, and seek to define ‘performance’ consistently across all fuel pathways,” Coleman said in the comment. 



1 Responses

  1. Charlie Peters



    Smog shops have vested interest in clean air Charlie Peters, San Bernardino Sun, March 1996 After reading the three part series “Consumer Nightmare?” by Steven Church (March 17 – 19). I find it amazing that more Californians are not aware of what is really happening with the state’s Smog Check program. For the past five years a poor economy has plagued California. The money starved California government and regulatory agencies have found their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow via the Smog Check program. Financial relief for the poor economy will be generated by contracts such as the smog testing contract signed with the Parsons Co. (via Engineering Science) and Envirotest. The Environmental Protection Agency’s demands for clean air (through the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments) will generate the largest tax increase in history. Behind the effort is Dr. Don Stedman, patent holder of the remote sensing technology to detect “gross polluters,” the state’s worst polluting vehicles. Stedman works out of the University of Denver. A long list of international government and big business interests, led by the federal EPA, have provided funding for Steadman’s work. Pollution credit trading is at the core of this money tree. Numerous buy back programs project that 50,000 cars a day will be scrapped to meet the state’s clean-air standards, generating approximately $1,000.00 a car. This moves money from small business and the public to government and big business. Parsons (Engineering Science) is also the referee for Smog Check II, the latest rendition of Smog Check, and Envirotest is the quality auditing service that takes all the information from the smog testing equipment in California. These two international companies are providing government and big business the opportunity for increased revenue. At the heart of these efforts are monopoly contracts to inspect vehicles on the road and in “state” test stations. Remote sensing studies by California and Arizona are reported to “false fail” more than 50 percent of identified cars. State test stations in Colorado are reported by some to have false-failures in excess of 50 percent. So the question is: Are clean-air mandates about clean air – or money? If the goal of scrapping 50,000 vehicles per day is met, the incentives to provide privatized rapid transit may be next. An additional party to this tax increase strategy, some say, will be privatizing roads and charging for parking. This will help with incentives to make privatized rapid transit economically feasible. Is the American love affair with the automobile at risk because of funding demands of government and big business’s desire for profits (and thus its partnership with government)? These policies are being questioned by an expanding group, including academics from state universities and many groups across the country. Money and power generated from command and control policies that have possibilities of changing the face of America are a raging debate in many quarters. One voice is demanding that responsible government “manage what it mandates.” Promotion of responsible government to promote competitive market inspection and quality maintenance is getting consideration as an option to the money trading strategy. The Clean Air Performance Professionals has requested a pilot study to change management techniques to improve mechanics’ Smog Check performance. CAPP maintains that the study will demonstrate a reduction in mobile emissions in excess of 1 million tons per year. Such a result promotes continuation of America’s love affair with the automobile. The strategy of the proposed pilot study is that government and the private sector can work together toward common goals to provide the public with services that are superior to those provided by government monopoly efforts. America is making big decisions that affect the very air we breathe. But only private citizens can decide the final direction and results by lobbying for improved performance.


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