Researchers: LCFS Would Help America

Joanna Schroeder

During a bipartisan briefing on Capitol Hill, researchers from six institutions advocated that adopting a national Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) would be a positive step for America. Renewable fuels, they said, will be cleaner, cheaper and “Made in America”. This consensus by the group of researchers was met after conducting an extensive series of peer-reviewed LCFS studies. The research will be published in The Energy Policy Journal’s special issue on Low Carbon Fuel Policy over the next several months.

“A national Low Carbon Fuel Standard is a promising framework to help solve the transportation energy challenges that have eluded us for several decades,” said Dr. Daniel Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, one of the participating institutions of the National Low Carbon Fuel Standard Project. “Technologically, an LCFS is very doable. And it can help us address the complex choices with conventional oil, shale gas, oil sands, biofuels, and electric vehicles.”

The way that a LCFS would work is through setting a common target for carbon intensity, which would reduce the amount of carbon in transportation fuels. Energy companies would have to meet the carbon intensity level but could individually decide how to meet that goal. Companies could explore such things as biofuels or hydrogen fuels. In addition, companies could buy and sell carbon credits from companies producing low-carbon fuels.

Dr. Jonathan Rubin, professor of Economics at the University of Maine said, “An LCFS encourages innovation and diversity by harnessing market forces. “These reports provide practical policy recommendations, and are designed to inject scientific information into the national conversation on a Low Carbon Fuel Standard.”

Yet not everyone agrees that an LCFS would be a positive move for the country. The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) has publicly come out against any national LCFS policies citing other studies that found such a move would cost millions of Americans to lose jobs, double gasoline prices and raise greenhouse gas emissions.

The idea of a low carbon fuel standard was brought to the country’s attention when California passed it’s LCFS.  While the state moved forward with implementation, detractors worked to against the law and earlier this year U.S. District Judge Lawrence O’Neill ruled LCFS unconstitutional for violating the commerce clause. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to act on the ruling.

“A national low carbon fuel standard would be an economic disaster for the United States,” said Michael Whatley, Executive Vice President of CEA. “Study after study has shown that low carbon fuel standards will dramatically increase the price of gasoline and home heating oil, kill thousands of American jobs and stall our economy, all while actually increasing global greenhouse gas emissions.

Contrary to what CEA believes, researchers found an LCFS would buffer the economy against global oil price spikes, trim demand for petroleum, and lessen upward pressure on gas prices. They cite an CFS would also create fresh opportunities for new fuels to compete in the marketplace, save consumers money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and boost energy security.

CEA disagrees and Whatley added, “Americans spend a significant part of their family budget to cool and heat their homes and fuel their cars. A national LCFS, which would add significantly to this burden, is the wrong choice for energy consumers.”

Dr. Madhu Khanna, professor of economics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Economics counters that argument. “A national Low Carbon Fuel Standard creates a strong market signal that attracts investment and spurs innovation in clean fuel technologies, increases consumption of clean fuels and lowers average consumer fuel prices, for a total savings of $411 billion by 2035 on fuel expenditures.”

In what could prove to be another benefit of an LCFS, is more diversification of crops. Such a standard would encourage farmers to grow crops that are viable for conversion to fuel rather than selling food crops into the biofuels market, says the reports. It would also alleviate pressure on one crop during a drought situation – an unforeseen event that is occurring today spiking corn prices and causing many ethanol plants to reduce production or even idle plants.

“We have a big challenge that didn’t happen overnight, but these recommendations provide a framework for moving America toward a more sustainable transportation system. We look forward to spurring a national dialogue,” said Dr. Sonia Yeh, co-chair of the National LCFS Project.

biofuels, Environment, Hydrogen, Opinion