CARB standards drive cleaner fuels

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The California Air Resources Board last week formally considered the first proposals from private companies for new ways to make low-carbon transportation fuels under California’s program to reduce dependence on petroleum and promote cleaner alternative fuels. The proposals included those from two manufacturers of Midwest ethanol – the Archer Daniels Midland Company and POET – and ethanol made from Brazilian sugarcane.

Data related to the manufacture and production of the proposed fuels were presented by staff to CARB Executive Officer James Goldstene at the first public hearing held to consider fuel production techniques not currently assigned a carbon intensity score in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard regulation.

“California’s standards were designed to drive innovation and invite companies to devise new low-carbon approaches to making alternative fuels,” says Mary Nichols, CARB chairman. “The fact that private companies are now approaching us with new methods of producing ethanol is proof that California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard is working exactly as advertised. Fuel suppliers know that California has established a large and certain market for low-carbon fuels though 2020, and we expect to see many more proposals for even cleaner fuels in the coming years.”

CARB approved the Low Carbon Fuel Standard in April 2009 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce the dependency on foreign oil by encouraging a variety of fuels used for transportation, and boost the market for alternative-fuel vehicles. California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard requires that suppliers of transportation fuels meet an average declining standard of carbon intensity that will provide a 10 percent reduction in GHG emissions for all fuels used in California by 2020.

The carbon intensity of a fuel is determined by the sum of all GHG associated with the production, transportation, processing and consumption of a fuel, referred to as the fuels’ pathway. The hearing on Thursday, Feb. 24, was held to consider the carbon intensity numbers associated with a range of new approaches to producing fuels. These approaches focus on more efficient methods as well as the use of cleaner energy when producing transportation fuels.

In total, 28 new fuel production techniques were considered at the hearing, including two proposed carbon intensity numbers for biodiesel derived from used cooking fuels. Collectively, the proposed changes provide additional options for meeting the carbon intensity reductions called for under the program. The modifications to the staff proposal as discussed at the hearing will appear shortly in the form of amendments to the original Low Carbon Fuel Standard regulation that will allow for at least 15 days of public comment before final approval.