What Will 'Low Carbon Fuel' Mean For You?

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2013 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD bi-fuel (natural gas & gasoline) pickup truck

2013 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD bi-fuel (natural gas & gasoline) pickup truck

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California is often at the forefront of clean vehicles, whether that's through startups like Tesla producing electric vehicles, or regulations that encourage the sale and manufacture of low-emissions vehicles.

That trend is continuing says Pike Research, as the state aims to push through a new national low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) as a replacement for the current national renewable fuel standard (RFS).

The RFS is the standard that currently dictates the levels of ethanol in gasoline, replacing a proportion of the fossil fuel with ethanol made within the U.S.

While a noble cause, the standard has come under criticism for several reasons, ranging from uncertainty over the long-term effects of ethanol on engine components, to worries over the amount of land devoted to corn-based ethanol fuel rather than food from corn, as greater quantities are required.

The LCFS scheme is wider-ranging, assigning credits for the supply of alternative fuels. This isn't just limited to ethanol, but covers hydrogen, bio-diesel, electricity, and natural gas.

The credits vary depending on the calculated "seed-to-wheels" factor of each fuel. This considers both the carbon intensity of the fuel, and how much energy it takes to produce, and the supplier is remunerated accordingly.

Critics of the existing RFS scheme are hoping the new plans put more emphasis on a wider range of fuels, rather than focusing on ethanol.

What does it mean for you?

Initially, not a great deal. Your gas will still have 10 percent ethanol content, the price is unlikely to change any more than its perpetually shifting norm, and you'll still be able to buy the same cars.

In the longer term, it may encourage an improved hydrogen, natural gas and electric network, as the incentive to expand in these areas--low carbon ratings permitting--is improved, which isn't necessarily the case with the current ethanol-centric RFS scheme.

As such, it may be a catalyst for a growing range of alternative fuel vehicles to hit the road, and that means greater choice for consumers, with all the usual benefits associated with that.


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Comments (7)
  1. I wonder what the impact of the drought will be?

  2. Prices go up and ethanol ends up saving us nothing.


  3. Well, low "carbon" fuels are also lower in MPG...

    CNG and ethanol based gas will produce lower MPG.. Hydrogen is dangerous.. Look at what they are doing during the Olympic to reduce security concerns on hydrogen refueling..


    Realistically, plug in hybrids is the best step towards higher efficiency and lower carbon emission.

  4. That's true that CNG & Ethanol means less MPG, but there is plenty of natural gas reserves in countries like USA and Australia which means if we go towards CNG as a fuel, we don't need to rely on imported fuel as much. Also, CNG is cleaner than gasoline.

  5. Well, CNG can be used to generate electricity that in turn powers plugin cars... Cars like the Volt can be turn into CNG powered EREVs too.

  6. To those those in the know [following H2], this was known in 2006; no surprises. The ODA, not security by any stretch of the imagination, made that decision.

    Also, the sky is not falling chicken littles. [Danger Will Robinson!]


  7. Anthony, The RFS standards are NOT ethanol centric. They are cellulosic centric.

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