New Study Shows Potential for Growth in the Pacific Coast Low-carbon Fuel Supply

British Columbia, California, Oregon, Washington have all pledged to reduce the carbon intensity of transport fuels in the Pacific Coast region. A new study from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and E4tech shows that the targets in the policies those governments have adopted or proposed can be met with a range of low-carbon fuel options, and that by 2030 low-carbon fuels could reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the region by over 60 million tons per year.

Those conclusions are based on a detailed modeling study of low-carbon fuel technologies and production pathways, estimating the future availability of low carbon fuels given policy incentives to supply them in the Pacific Coast region.

The ICCT’s fuels program lead, Chris Malins, who led the research team, said that “The combination of low-carbon fuel policies in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia makes the Pacific Coast one of the most attractive markets in the world to deploy available and emerging low-carbon fuels. Our study shows that there is a range of options available to decarbonize the region’s transport and to meet policy targets.”

The study presents four primary conclusions:

  1. Low-carbon fuels can replace over a quarter of the gasoline and diesel used by vehicles in the Pacific Coast region by 2030.

  2. Low-carbon fuels can reduce the overall carbon intensity of on-road transportation fuels in the region by 14%–21% by 2030.

  3. The specific fuel policy targets established or proposed by the region’s state and provincial governments for fuel carbon intensity reductions can be met in a variety of ways involving conventional biofuels, electric-drive, natural gas, and advanced cellulosic biofuels.

  4. Decarbonization goals do not require a dramatic breakthrough in any one particular technology; many different technologies exist and are emerging that can be deployed for similar oil-saving and climate mitigation benefits.

California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, British Columbia’s Low Carbon Fuel Requirements, and Oregon and Washington’s proposed Clean Fuel Standards all seek to reduce the carbon intensity of vehicle fuels over time. California’s and British Columbia’s policies call for a 10% reduction in carbon intensity by 2020, to be accomplished through displacing gasoline and diesel by lower-carbon renewable fuels and shifting the composition of the vehicle fleet toward alternative fuel vehicles.

The study presents eight scenarios for low-carbon fuel supply, including varying amounts of electricity, hydrogen, ethanol, biodiesel, renewable diesel, next generation cellulosic biofuel, and natural gas. Potential carbon savings are estimated by comparing the expected carbon intensity of these alternative fuels to the carbon intensity of the fossil fuels they replace. This analysis is novel in its evaluation of fuel availability across the four jurisdictions simultaneously, in its consideration of resource and industry constraints, and its quantification of fuel carbon intensity according to the adopted fuel policy lifecycle carbon ratings.

ICCT program director Nic Lutsey said, “There’s not one single solution for a low-carbon future. We need a portfolio of fuel and vehicle technologies to match leading companies’ technology developments to the constraints and demands of the Pacific Coast region’s fuel market. We’ve shown that companies and consumers have options, and the region can hit its overall climate goals while dramatically reducing its oil use.”

In October 2013, through the Pacific Coast Collaborative’s Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, the premier of British Columbia and the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington jointly committed to build an integrated low-carbon fuel market. British Columbia adopted its Low Carbon Fuel Requirement in 2008, and California adopted its Low Carbon Fuel Standard in 2010. Oregon and Washington are both working toward the adoption of Clean Fuels Standards.


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