Stronger California LCFS targets possible: Study
San Francisco, 22 March (Argus) — California can push for more ambitious reductions in the carbon intensity of its transportation fuels, a new study released yesterday concludes.
The state's Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) potentially could achieve a 26pc reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 2030 with renewable natural gas, biodiesel, electricity and other alternative fuels supplying enough credits, the research firm Cerulogy found in a report commissioned by environmental advocates NextGen America, Ceres and Union of Concerned Scientists.
That would exceed the 20pc by 2030 target proposed by the California Air Resources Board (ARB).
"The LCFS has been a tremendously successful policy, bringing innovative clean transportation fuels into the market, reducing carbon pollution by millions of tons and helping clean up the air in our state," NextGen California transportation policy manager Colin Murphy said. "Now, ARB can go further on clean fuels and raise the LCFS targets to reduce pollution from existing cars while supporting the deployment of zero-emission transportation across the state."
California's LCFS mandates a 10pc by 2020 reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels, but regulators are considering an extension of the program to help the state meet 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.
The ARB caught some in the LCFS market by surprise last month when it proposed a 20pc by 2030 target – two percentage points higher than one tentatively approved by the agency's board in December. But the Cerulogy study finds that the state should have enough low-carbon fuels available to go even further.
In the most optimistic scenario, the LCFS hits a 26.6pc by 2030 target. Electric vehicles emerge as the largest single LCFS credit generating category by that year, driven by an estimated 5.8mn such cars and trucks on the road. That would exceed a 5mn by 2030 target set by governor Jerry Brown (D).
Volumes of cellulosic fuels and renewable natural gas would increase significantly, along with greater deployment of carbon capture at ethanol refineries and green hydrogen use at petroleum refineries.
The report also found that the 20pc by 2030 target proposed by the ARB is obtainable, even with some low-carbon fuel technologies underperforming.
Many refiners remain skeptical of the LCFS program's viability in the coming years and will likely push for lower targets as the ARB moves forward with amendments to it.
"We still do not see enough fuels generating enough credits by 2020," said Miles Heller, director for policy and regulatory affairs at US independent refiner Andeavor.
The board will hold its first hearing on the LCFS amendments in late April. The changes under consideration would go into effect next year.
Transportation accounts for nearly 40pc of the California's GHG emissions, the largest share of any sector.