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Supreme Court: California Cleaner-Fuels Plan OK, Oil Companies Lose Appeal

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Big square baler harvesting wheat straw for production of cellulosic ethanol

Big square baler harvesting wheat straw for production of cellulosic ethanol

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In an action sure to appease fans of a greener transportation future, the U.S. Supreme Court has chosen to decline oil and ethanol companies' appeal to a decision to uphold California's Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS).

That means the LCFS now has one fewer obstacle in its aim to encourage the adoption of cleaner fuels in the state's cars and trucks.

Originally established in 2007 and signed by then-Governor Schwarzenegger, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard was formed with the aim of reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels ten percent by 2020.

LCFS includes performance-based standards that consider the entire production life-cycle of fuels sold in California, ensuring they're greener from production all the way to use.

The standard came into force in 2011 and according to research in 2013, LCFS has resulted in faster-than-expected growth in the low-carbon fuel industry.

While growth figures are disproportionate to overall success--the low-carbon fuel industry is still a comparatively small element next to the nation's oil and ethanol firms--it has so far succeeded in putting more biofuels and natural gas into the nation's cars.

Washington State also adopted the standard in recent months, hoping to cap an expected $10 billion in climate change-related problems in the state after 2020.

MORE: What Will 'Low Carbon Fuel' Mean For You?

Oil and ethanol companies' objections to LCFS center around concerns that state law places unconstitutional burdens on out-of-state fuel producers.

Last September, the Ninth Circuit Court sided with California, deeming LCFS "not facially discriminatory".

Big oil and ethanol producers then took their case to the Supreme Court, petitioning for review in March this year. The Supreme Court has now declined this review, remanding the case back to District Court for trial.

The LCFS battle is still far from over, but those in support of California's standard already see it as a part victory.

David Pettitt, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the review "another case of Big Oil and Big Ethanol trying to avoid cleaning up their act", adding that LCFS will "spur jobs and innovation and cutting harmful pollution."

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) has also applauded the Supreme Court's decision, saying it has "reaffirmed California’s progressive leadership and propped open the door for additional measures intended to maximize the emissions-cutting potential of biofuels."

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