April 24, 2009 in Nation/World

California orders carbon reductions

Fuel emissions mandate is first in nation
Kevin Yamamura McClatchy
 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California became the first state in the nation Thursday to mandate carbon-based reductions in transportation fuels in an attempt to cut the state’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.

The California Air Resources Board approved a phased-in reduction starting in 2011, with a goal of shrinking carbon impacts 10 percent by 2020. Fuel producers can comply in different ways, such as providing a cleaner fuel portfolio, blending low-carbon ethanol with gasoline or purchasing credits from other clean-energy producers.

California’s low-carbon fuel standard could lead to a national measure under President Barack Obama, as well as shape how the transportation sector evolves. But businesses and oil industry critics warned that more research is necessary and that its action would lead to higher costs for consumers in a recessionary economy.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked the air board in 2007 to consider a low-carbon fuel standard as a way to meet the state’s overall goal of cutting greenhouse gases 25 percent by 2020, as mandated by a 2006 law.

The air board looked at the entire carbon “intensity” of fuels, rather than the impact of emissions from use alone. That meant considering the emissions from the start of production to lasting impacts not directly related to fuel supply.

That led to some controversy over the air board’s regulations dealing with corn-based ethanol producers.

A staff analysis assigned additional greenhouse-gas consequences to their fuels alone based on the potential impacts that ethanol production has on forests and green space. The theory is that increased ethanol production reduces the existing amount of farmland for food crops, which in turn leads to cultivation of untouched land that previously captured carbon.

Ethanol advocates challenged the report’s findings, disputing that their corn-based production had a significant impact on greenhouse-gas increases elsewhere.

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