Low Carbon Fuel Standard Proving More Successful Than Expected

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Biofuel crops (photo: Texas A&M University biofuels research alliance)

Biofuel crops (photo: Texas A&M University biofuels research alliance)

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A report analyzing the uptake of low-carbon fuels says that fossil-fuel alternatives are actually growing faster than expected.

The report, produced by a coalition of investors, utilities, and makers of alternative fuels and vehicles, suggests alternative fuels are proving more popular than anticipated, with biodiesels in particular more popular than ever before.

It deems that California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) is succeeding in its aims to encourage technical innovation in the alt-fuels sphere.

The LCFS was established in 2007, signed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger with the aim of reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by ten percent, by 2020.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the standard in 2009, and it's been in force since 2011.

It works using a credits-based system, not dissimilar from the ZEV credits system used to good effect by Tesla to bolster its earnings. Credits are assigned according to the "seed-to-wheels" factor of different alternative fuels--based on the carbon intensity of the fuel, and how much energy it takes to produce

Eileen Tutt, executive director of the California Electric Transportation Coalition (CalETC), said the LCFS is doing "exactly what it was designed to do--open the way for new fuels and technologies to compete fairly in the marketplace."

Biodiesel is proving particularly successful. Some of this, the report says, is down to the fuel's fairly low initial usage, meaning initial growth is exponential--but renewable fuel grants awarded to some major producers has seen production rise significantly.

Much of the biodiesel used is currently blended with pump diesel--currently, no more than 5 percent. As with ethanol, more research and investment will be needed before higher blends are used.

Natural gas and renewable gasoline and diesel are also surging forward, though the cellulosic ethanol industry has struggled.

Overall, the industry expects to comfortably meet those LCFS targets for 2020--and for California at least, the carbon intensity of transportation fuel should drop by that 10 percent margin.

Combined with other factors like hybrid and electric vehicle sales, zero-emission vehicle standards, emissions regulations and fuel efficiency targets, the transport industry is undoubtedly getting cleaner by the day.

The full report will go online later today at CalETC.com.


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