Opinion: Data doesn’t support clean fuel standard claims

A recent opinion piece in the Business Journal urged legislators in Olympia to adopt a clean fuel standard for economic and environmental reasons. However, based on the results of this fuel mandate in California and Oregon, also known as the low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS), many of those claims are not supported by actual data.

First, based on data from California and Oregon, an LCFS has not lowered fuel costs. …

While an LCFS is designed to have minimal cost impact initially, compliance costs increase as the mandate becomes more stringent over time. … Currently, agency data shows the LCFS is adding 24 cents per gallon and we estimate the added cost will likely increase to more than 60 cents per gallon by 2030. …

Second, California’s LCFS is not the reason petroleum fuel costs have gone down since the mandate was implemented. There are several components that impact the price of petroleum fuel, with the cost of crude oil being the most dominant. The price of crude oil produced on the Alaskan North Slope — the primary source on the West Coast — has decreased by more than 50% since 2011. Without the LCFS in place, petroleum fuel costs in California would have fallen by a larger amount.

Third, environmental benefits from an LCFS are uncertain. … The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has recognized these challenges as part of their environmental analysis on the 2019 LCFS Amendments and reported that annual GHG emission reductions attributable to LCFS have only been about 1% of total statewide emissions. …

Lastly, an LCFS is unlikely to spur an expansive biofuel industry in Washington with associated job creation. In California, for instance, only 12% of liquid biofuel fuel pathways registered under LCFS — including ethanol, biodiesel and renewable diesel — come from in-state production facilities. The vast majority of biofuel production facilities are located in the Midwest due to close proximity of appropriate feedstocks and friendlier business climates. …

In considering whether to adopt an LCFS in Washington, actual data from California and Oregon — the only two states with this fuel mandate — provide important insight on whether an LCFS would be effective in reducing GHG emissions or providing other benefits in the state.

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