Farmers see pitfalls in low-carbon fuel mandate

OLYMPIA — Several farmers told legislators Thursday that lowering the fossil-fuel content in gasoline and diesel will raise their transportation, equipment and labor costs.

Clark County, Wash., farmer Kevin Dobbins said small engines need more maintenance if fueled by an ethanol-gasoline mix and that a mandate on fuel suppliers to mix in more non-fossil fuels would worsen the problem.

“It’d hammer it home. It’d be taking a wound and ripping it open,” he said. …

The policy’s influence on fuel prices would be expected to increase as the low-carbon standard was phased in.

California has the most-advanced program and is about halfway to full implementation. That state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated that the low-carbon standard raised the cost of gasoline in 2018 by 13 cents a gallon. When fully in place in 2030, the standard could add 46 cents to a gallon, according to the analysis.

Eastern Washington tree fruit grower Ben Buchholz said a low-carbon mandate would raise the cost of moving fruit across the state to Seattle and Tacoma ports. “It would be a regressive gas tax without any of the money going to road projects,” he said.

Workers who commute long distances would also take a hit, he said. “Our employees have to fill their cars,” said Buchholz, who’s executive director of the Northwest Agricultural Cooperative Council.

Taylor Perrault, the lead mechanic for his family’s hop and blueberry farm in Toppenish, said the farm uses about 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year.

The farm also tried ethanol in gas, but gave it up, he said. “We went to the non-ethanol gas and noticed that our repairs have been cut in almost half.”

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