Processing Magazine

California adopts nation''s first low-carbon fuel rule

April 27, 2009
According to the Associated Press, California air regulators are the first in the nation to adopt a mandate for low-carbon fuels, telling the petroleum industry it must help combat global warming by offering cleaner-burning alternatives. The standards approved by the California Air Resources Board are expected to create a new market for alternative fuels and set the stage for a national debate on the future of the country''s transportation system. California''s standard calls for cutting the carbon content of the fuels sold in California by 10 percent by 2020. It does so using a groundbreaking approach, by counting all the emissions required to deliver gasoline and diesel to California consumers -- from drilling a new oil well or planting corn to transporting it to gas stations. Environmentalists, public health representatives and supporters of alternative fuels called the action historic. They said the rules are critical to helping California meet its goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions and hoped they would promote the further development of vehicles powered by electricity, natural gas and hydrogen. Some representatives of the ethanol industry, argued that California''s new rules would leave them out. They said regulators overstated the negative environmental effects of making corn-based ethanol. They were especially critical of the air board''s decision to tie global deforestation and other land conversions to biofuel production in the United States. Representatives of the ethanol industry told the board it was unfair to penalize them for agricultural land changes outside the U.S. They said corn and soybean exports increased last year, along with ethanol production. Ethanol producers also complained about unfairness, saying the air board had failed to hold oil and gas companies accountable for similar consequences tied to their operations. Under the low-carbon fuel standard, petroleum refiners, companies that blend fuel and distributors must gradually increase the cleanliness of the fuels they sell in California beginning in 2011. The regulation would not mandate what alternative they must use. Rather, it would assign a so-called carbon-intensity score to various fuels.