“Replacing petroleum with renewable electricity and other clean transportation fuels is among the most critical steps to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists, an organization of nearly 250 scientists, analysts, policy and communication experts dedicated to creating a healthy and sustainable future, recently issued a report emphatically endorsing clean fuel standards as a proven approach of reducing climate pollution while creating economic prosperity for communities that were left behind by the economic boom of the last decade.
What’s a Clean Fuel Standard?
A clean fuel standard relies on a complete and accurate life cycle assessment of each transportation fuel, called the carbon intensity (CI)l, based upon up-to-date science. The lower the carbon intensity, the cleaner the fuel and the less impact on the planet. A fuel’s value would be connected to its level of pollution. For example, gasoline and diesel have a CI score of 100 compared to ethanol’s 70 CI and renewable diesel from cooking oils, fats, and grease a 20 CI.
Much like a renewable energy standard requires utilities to reduce climate pollution from electricity generation by encouraging the use of renewable energy like solar and wind power, a clean fuel standard, holds producers and sellers of transportation fuel accountable for reducing the climate impacts in their products.
The Washington state legislature is considering following in the (low carbon) footsteps of California, Oregon, and British Columbia, all of which have passed similar legislation over the last decade and have seen the demand for cleaner fuels skyrocket as consumers in those states (province) are now able to choose how much they want to clean up their commute.
If HB 1091 is passed and signed by Governor Inslee, transportation emissions will be reduced 20% below 2017 levels by 2035. Big Oil will be held accountable for part of the cost of replacing high polluting fossil fuels by either cleaning up their current gas refining operations to reduce emissions or by purchasing credits from producers of less polluting fuels who will now be able to compete for consumers at the gas pump.
In California, the result has been a 40¢ per gallon decrease in retail fuel prices since 2011.
Likewise in Washington, as supply and demand for clean fuels grows, the oil companies who want to compete in the market will be forced to take a second-look at their pricing, including their 77¢ per gallon profit from Washington drivers, which is the highest in the nation.
“Clean fuel standards are a proven part of the solution, holding the oil industry accountable for its actions while steadily driving down emissions.”
The Union of Concerned Scientists acknowledges the fairness in forcing the oil industry to help pay the cost of transitioning to cleaner transportation fuels after decades of “ funding ongoing climate denial campaigns and efforts to block climate policies for decades.”
Will A Clean Fuel Standard Work?
“A clean fuel standard is a proven policy approach to reducing transportation emissions that complements support for EVs and emissions standards for cars, trucks, and electricity generation.”
UCS examined California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), in effect since 2011, to gauge the success of the policy, and their findings showed a 70% increase in the use of low-CI clean fuels in the state, much of that coming from Washington. They also found the clean fuel credit market grew to over a half-billion dollars, money that’s available to be invested in more clean fuel production.
Transportation emissions are the largest source of climate pollution in Washington, and in much of the U.S., which is why UCS concluded, “A clean fuel standard, together with strong pollution standards for vehicle manufacturers, support for transportation electrification and renewable power…can set us on a course to a clean transportation future.”