Category Archives: Low Carbon Fuel Standard

From Stalk to Stover: Edeniq is Innovating to Provide New Fuel for Your Gas Tank

rp_ca_innov_series_icon_283x204.jpgEDFs Innovators Series profiles companies and people across California with bold solutions to reduce carbon pollution and help the state meet the goals of AB 32. Each addition to the series will profile a different solution, focused on the development of new technologies and ideas.

The vast majority of Californians put ethanol in their car – it makes up about ten percent of every gallon we buy at the local filling station (not including diesel). This means that every year, drivers in the Golden State use about 1.5 billion gallons of this alternative fuel. Such widespread use of this fuel begs the question: What is ethanol’s environmental profile, and is everything being done to produce it as efficiently as possible?

Over the years, a great deal of effort has gone into answering the first part of the question, and the answer is: it depends on many factors. Water use, land use, and fertilizer use are all factors associated with growing ethanol feedstocks (typically corn) that can influence whether the fuel is an environmental winner. Aquifer depletion, unsustainable land clearing, and fertilizer run-off are just a few of the potential problems that can emerge when ethanol production is performed in a short-sighted manner. Similarly, feedstock type, biorefinery efficiency, and ethanol yield per ton also matter and can impact whether ethanol helps from a climate change standpoint. Cumulatively, each of these factors can influence the environmental profile of California’s third-most widely used fuel.

Who: Edeniq employs 50 people in California and develops and produces technology that makes existing ethanol plants run more efficiently and use more of the corn plant.

What: Edeniq produces the Cellunator and the PATHWAY platform, which work together to break down plant biomass and produce cellulosic ethanol, and bolt-on technology that produces cellulosic sugars for future processing into fuels.

Where: Edeniq is based in Visalia, and partners with Pacific Ethanol, which has plants in Stockton and Madera.

Why: Edeniq is contributing to a low-carbon economy by making ethanol plants in California more efficient and productive at a low capital cost.

While minds may differ on how the total environmental costs and benefits of ethanol stack up, there are some companies like Visalia, California-based Edeniq who are stepping up to answer the second part of the question, delivering innovative techniques to produce ethanol as efficiently as possible.

Historically, corn ethanol production was accomplished by fermenting the starch part of the corn kernel, with the ancillary biomass byproducts – the remaining protein, fat, fiber, and other nutrients – often getting processed into livestock and poultry feed.

Today, however, through products like those offered by Edeniq, more of the corn can be used, making it possible to produce ethanol that requires less corn plantings and could prove to be a lower carbon fuel. And, if breakthroughs being developed by Edeniq are fully realized, the company might just crack the code on the next big California-based innovation to transform the transportation fuel industry.

Take, for example, the Edeniq Cellunator – a specially designed, industrial-grade grinder that is integrated into existing corn ethanol plants and chews up corn biomass (starch and fiber) to allow ethanol plants to process a larger percent of the corn plant. The Cellunator often works in conjunction with the company’s PATHWAY enzyme platform, which can convert corn starch and corn fiber into useable ethanol. Finally, Edeniq’s bolt-on cellulosic technology (currently in pilot form) can allow existing  ethanol plants to be modified into facilities that can also produce cellulosic ethanol – breaking down biomass like corn stover and turning it into cellulosic sugar for further processing into fuel.

What does all this technology and innovation add up to? Edeniq’s technology looks to be an incremental, yet major step towards breaking open a market for cellulosic ethanol – one that fuel producers have long sought. If ethanol producers can take advantage of more parts of the corn plant and earn accreditation by the California Air Resources Board – the process of producing ethanol can also be certified as lower carbon and earn credits under regulations like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

An Edeniq worker at the company’s pilot plant in Visalia.

An Edeniq worker at the company’s pilot plant in Visalia.

In addition to reducing the need for new land to be planted to increase yield, Edeniq’s technology enables ethanol companies to increase production volumes without the high cost of building additional infrastructure. According to Brian Thome, CEO of Edeniq, this is a key solution to what is often seen as an insurmountable problem. “Over the past ten years, capital cost has been the largest barrier to adoption of next generation fuels. Our customers want to operate profitable and sustainable biorefineries, and we think this will require innovative, capital-efficient technologies like PATHWAY. Producing cellulosic ethanol in California doesn’t require hundreds of millions in investment. It can be accomplished with the infrastructure that we already have in place.”

Edeniq isn’t going it alone however, and partners with companies like California-based Pacific Ethanol (which has used the Cellunator and is planning to add PATHWAY) to produce alternative fuels. After full installation, Edeniq predicts that Pacific Ethanol will be able to produce an additional 1.8 million gallons of ethanol, using less feedstock.

“We have installed the Edeniq Cellunator at our Stockton, California plant to increase efficiency and production yield,” says Paul Koehler,* Vice President of Corporate Development at Pacific Ethanol. “With the addition of specialty enzymes such as the PATHWAY we soon expect to begin producing cellulosic ethanol from the fiber portion of the corn kernel.  We are pleased that Edeniq has obtained an approved low carbon cellulosic pathway from the EPA.  The ethanol produced will meet increasing low carbon fuel standards and RFS obligations.”

As California transitions to a cleaner fuel system, given the impending expansion of the cap-and-trade program to include fuels, as well as the LCFS, innovative companies like Edeniq will see an increased role in the market as they facilitate what could prove to be a low-cost and lower carbon way to increase biofuel production with less waste.

Please note that EDF has a standing corporate donation policy and we accept no funding from companies or organizations featured in this series. Furthermore, the EDF California Innovators Series is in no way an official endorsement of the people or organizations featured, or their business models and practices. 

*Despite having the same, undeniably great last name, Mr. Koehler is no relation to the author.

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Transportation Diversification is Key to Fixing California’s Gas Price and Pollution Woes

This summer I had the unique opportunity to drive with members of the California state legislature through their districts in Los Angeles and the Central Valley. In addition to brown lawns, hazy air, and intense heat, we were reminded of California’s persistently high gas prices on filling station signs at nearly every major intersection.

Fuel hoses from a gas station. Source: Flickr/Boegh

Fuel hoses from a gas station. Source: Flickr/Boegh

As we drove through many neighborhoods struggling to pull themselves up economically, the need for solutions was clear. Since lower-income households pay the same amount per gallon as people in more affluent neighborhoods, low-income households tend to devote a greater percentage of their monthly income toward fuel purchases. Furthermore, since new and more efficient cars are usually more expensive, low-income households tend to drive older, less efficient vehicles that use more gas and release more pollution. So, while families across California are cutting back on things like watering their lawns, they are forced to spend a lot of these savings filling up their cars, while also breathing some of the most polluted air in the nation.

Fortunately, there is a solution at California’s fingertips that will tackle the issues of gas prices and pollution at the same time: transportation diversification. This simply means providing all Californians with choices on how to get where they need to go. These choices can take the form of alternatives to gas and diesel, alternatives to inefficient vehicles, and alternatives to cars all together. By providing these choices, consumers can pick what works for them – allowing the entire transportation system to better meet people’s unique needs and budgets.

The status quo is unsustainable and will yield even higher prices and greater harm to consumers in the long term

California cannot afford to maintain the status quo – a system where practically everyone drives either a car or truck powered by gas or diesel. In this scenario, Californians continue to buy 15 to 17 billion gallons of fuel a year, over half of which comes from imported oil.

Since the largest impact on the price at the pump is the international price of oil, keeping the status quo means California consumers will continue to be affected by decisions and unrest occurring in places like the Middle East, South America, and Canada. What’s more, due to increasing international demand for gasoline and diesel, and a shift toward dirtier crude oil to produce fuel, all signs point to higher long-term prices and more pollution. Put simply: according to almost every expert analysis from state, federal, and international agencies, the trend on gas prices is upwards – meaning more pain at the pump for California residents if steps aren’t taken to build in needed solutions.

Transportation diversification will yield lower prices and improve the health of California communities

As described in a July 2014 letter signed by 74 economic and energy economists, transportation diversification will likely cause fuel prices – including prices for gasoline and diesel – to decrease in the long term helping Californians break out of the status quo spiral that is both expensive and unhealthy. More transportation options mean consumers will be less affected if the price of any one type of fuel unexpectedly goes up, protecting the larger economy from price spikes that can undermine economic growth and devastate poor communities. As more fuel efficient vehicles, lower carbon fuels, and better transit options are deployed in communities across the state, all Californians, and in particular low-income communities, will gain more control over their finances and mobility.

Diversifying transportation will also lead to decreased toxins in the air, a subject Californians know all too much about and which severely harms the health of our children and elderly. Through the introduction of clean alternatives, such as vehicles that don’t require combustion, California can get relief from the status quo where nearly every vehicle has a tailpipe responsible for thousands of pounds of pollution every year.

California’s roadmap to transportation diversification has been written, and the wheels are starting to turn

Thanks to the efforts of leaders in California government, the state has already taken the first steps toward transportation diversification though the passage and implementation of clean cars standards, the AB 32 Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), and a comprehensive cap-and-trade regulation.

These programs deliver on transportation diversification by creating incentives to bring new choices to consumers. For example, clean cars standards require auto-makers to provide more efficient and alternative fuel vehicles to the market. The LCFS, on the other hand, brings alternative fuels to consumers through a flexible regulatory mechanism that rewards clean fuel providers based on how much they sell. Cap and trade, by placing a price on carbon pollution across the entire economy, creates an incentive for both fuel providers and fuel users to find the cheapest and most effective ways to cut carbon pollution. This includes options that diversify the fuel mix with biogas, electricity, hydrogen, or renewable diesel. Cap and trade also provides investment money to develop alternatives like mass transit and reduce the cost of higher efficiency vehicles.

California is making real progress towards transportation diversification every day. Over the last five years, California’s policies have helped move the state from three percent diversification to eight percent (as measured by the share of alternative fuels in the overall market). By 2020, projections are for this number to double.

In my time driving around with some of the state’s most influential officials, it was clear that their top priority is delivering real benefits to their constituents. By supporting policies that are building a diversified transportation system, all Californians will have more choices – saving both money and lives. This is a framework that any public official should be able to support.

Also posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Transportation| 2 Responses

California Cements Latest Climate Alliance, this Time with Next-Door Neighbor Mexico

It’s been an invigorating few days for anyone looking for meaningful action to combat climate change, and especially for those following California’s global leadership in those efforts.

As a delegate to Governor Jerry Brown’s Trade and Investment Mission to Mexico, I witnessed first-hand California and Mexico sign a Memorandum of Understanding and formally agree to work together on a range of actions to address climate change.

The agreement between Governor Brown and representatives of Mexico’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and Mexico’s National Forestry Commission lays out areas where California and Mexico agree to cooperate and coordinate efforts on addressing climate change, including:

  • Pricing carbon pollution
  • Increasing renewable energy use and development
  • Addressing short-term climate pollutants
  • Cleaning up the transportation sector
  • Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation

A Joint Vision for Low-Carbon Prosperity

It makes perfect sense that Mexico is California’s latest climate change and clean energy ally. After all, the relationship between the two jurisdictions runs deep.  Mexico is California’s largest trading partner, and our cultures and economic interests have undoubtedly been entwined throughout history. Both have much at stake with climate change, and this latest collaboration embraces a shared environmental vision which recognizes that a low-carbon future goes hand-in-hand with economic prosperity. Read More »

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A Major Step to Protect Californians from Gasoline Price Manipulation

Tim O'Connor, EDFYou can’t turn on a TV or radio in California these days without hearing the oil companies and their industry associations complaining that the state can’t afford to move to cleaner fuels and predicting that cutting pollution from the transportation sector will drive up gasoline prices.

What the oil industry’s $56 million political campaign, and even wider reaching ad campaign,  doesn’t say is that if gas prices do go up this year, it is likely to be the oil industry—not clean energy—that’s to blame.

Since 2005, the price of gas in California has fluctuated by an average of $1.16 per gallon, while diesel has fluctuated by $1.01. Year after year, prices at the pump shoot up – yielding significant additional profits for fuel suppliers – then casually drift down back to a point higher than where they started. The phenomenon is so well known, industry insiders call it rockets and feathers.

The oil companies say they don’t cause these fluctuations, but the problem is so severe that Governor Jerry Brown and the state legislature just gave the California Energy Commission $342,000 to investigate and prevent gas price fixing and market manipulation by the industry.

Market domination can lead to price manipulation

Transportation fuel is a concentrated market where a handful of suppliers control a product everyone has to have. Small and large businesses, commuters, soccer moms, motorcycle clubs—pretty much everyone needs the gas and diesel supplied in California by just 22 companies, six of which (Chevron, Tesoro, BP, Phillips 66, Valero and Shell) control 90 percent of the total supply. Read More »

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Mapping the California Companies Fueling a Cleaner Future

green roads mapClean energy and clean tech sound exciting, but most people don’t see these businesses as a major part of our economy, especially when traditional fossil fuels rule at the pump.

But thanks to policies like California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and cap and trade, more and more businesses are giving us options when we need to get from point A to point B, and they form an increasingly important source of economic growth in the state.  From cars running on used vegetable oil (biodiesel) to cars you can plug into your house, new and exciting innovations are fast coming to market.

The new interactive Green Roads Map that EDF created in partnership with CALSTART, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), and the Natural Resources Defense Council, shows that we have many emerging options for our cars and transportation fleets, and that clean transportation is a flourishing industry in California.

The Green Roads Map is more than just a collection of dots- the map presents an important picture of the investors, researchers, producers, and salespeople who are transforming our economy and transportation system today. Read More »

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Supreme Court’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard decision: a victory for energy independence

By Erica Morehouse and Larissa Koehler

On this 4th of July week, a time of celebratory fireworks and barbeques, Americans commemorate our country’s hard-fought independence from colonial oppression. Americans are again working for greater independence, this time from fossil fuels that threaten our health, economic prosperity, and future. This week California won a pivotal legal challenge on this front.

Source: Flickr/johnkay

Source: Flickr/johnkay

Just three days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers were seeking to overturn the sound and well-reasoned decision from the 9th Circuit. The High Court’s refusal affirms the legality of a vital policy that decreases our reliance on foreign oil by promoting alternative sources of energy while reducing climate and air pollution from our vehicles.

Read More »

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The United States Supreme Court Hears the Other Side of the Story on California’s Cleaner Fuels Policy

rp_OCONNOR-PHOTO-MAY-20121-200x300.jpgYesterday, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Conservation Law Foundation filed a brief in opposition to March 2014 petitions for Supreme Court review in American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Association v. Corey and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey, cases in which oil and ethanol companies attack the constitutionality of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

The LCFS, adopted under California’s trail blazing Global Warming Solutions Act, is a central contributor in the effort to move the transportation system away from the current paradigm of unsustainable global warming pollution, foreign energy dependence, and community-choking air pollution. The LCFS works by putting market incentives in place that encourage the production and use of low carbon fuels that were not prevalent when the program went into effect.  It is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from California’s use of transportation fuels by 16 million metric tons per year by 2020.

As we have explained in prior posts here and here about this important case, the challengers in the litigation have argued that the LCFS discriminates against ethanol and oil coming from outside of California and that it attempts to regulate actions occurring outside the state in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Dormant Commerce Clause. A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected these arguments in September 2013. In their March 2014 petitions, the industry challengers seek Supreme Court review of the appeals court’s decision. The Supreme Court’s decision on whether to take the case could come as early as late June. Read More »

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New Study: California Climate Law Cuts Billions in Health, Pollution Costs

rp_OCONNOR-PHOTO-MAY-20121-200x300.jpgCalifornia drivers don’t have much choice when it comes to what fuel they fill their cars with, or how dirty it is. As recently as five years ago, nearly 97 percent of the energy used for transportation in the Golden State came from gas and diesel – over half of which was made from imported oil.

This basic lack of consumer choice means that California drivers like myself are stuck with a high-priced product that is made from dirty crude and controlled by a few major multinational oil companies.

What’s more, our transportation system has a direct effect on our health – in addition to contributing to climate change and energy insecurity.

And it’s not a pretty picture.

A study just out from the Environmental Defense Fund and the American Lung Association, with modeling by Tetra Tech, finds that the negative impacts of California’s transportation system cost us a staggering $25 billion per year. It also shows that the benefits of policies aimed at supporting the use of cleaner fuels can significantly reduce such costs.

25 million drivers, worst air pollution in the U.S.

I’m probably similar to many other drivers around here. Last year I drove some 15,000 miles, paying about $2,400 for gas – a sizeable portion of my disposable income. This gas is always more expensive in the summer than in winter, and it won’t matter if I fill up my car at the Shell station on the corner or from Chevron at the freeway on-ramp.

My 15,000 miles of driving last year released about 5 tons of greenhouse gas pollution and other air contaminants. When combined with the pollution released from California’s other 25 million drivers, I have, unfortunately, helped give California the nation’s worst air pollution.

Not only is our state home to the top five most polluted cities in the United States, but countless Californians suffer from lung and heart problems, and even risk early death, from pollution-related health impacts cause by transportation. Read More »

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Transportation fuel policies continue to benefit drivers and communities across California

rp_erica-morehouse-287x377-228x300.jpgCalifornia is implementing a suite of innovative transportation policies and there is ample evidence illustrating how drivers and communities across the state will benefit.

One critical piece of research is the First Update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan released by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) yesterday. The Board will vote on whether to approve the updated Plan next week. We've blogged here, here, and here about how the Plan recommends smart 2030 targets, positions California as a continuing leader on climate action, provides enhanced economic opportunity, and recommends new efforts to reduce short lived climate pollutants.

One of the most significant elements is the amount of money drivers will save because of the policies that CARB has so carefully planned for and implemented.  CARB's own analysis shows that existing policies will reduce fuel costs for drivers by over $400 per year by 2020 (from 2012 levels) and by just over $600 by 2030.

 

Source: First Update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan

Source: First Update to the Climate Change Scoping Plan

There is a growing body of work that supports and enhances CARB's finding that Californians will see overall benefits. Read More »

Also posted in Cap and trade, Climate, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Transportation| 3 Responses, comments now closed

13 for 13: The Stories that Defined California Environmental Leadership

There is never a dull moment on the California environmental policy scene, and 2013 was particularly action-packed.  Everywhere you turn there seems to be a new innovative solution or a fresh example of a company, city, organization, or individual making a profound difference in putting the Golden State on the path to a clean energy future.  Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has the privilege of being in the middle of many of these groundbreaking developments, and in the past 12 months, California has taken a number of exciting steps forward.

What follows is our “13 for (20)13” recap of the most consequential stories in the California climate change and energy policy world, in our own words.  From celebrating the one-year anniversary of a successful carbon market to forging partnerships with other states and countries to marking continued innovations and opportunities in clean energy and fuels, it has been quite a year.  Here’s to an even better 2014.

 

1. California’s Carbon Market Caps off Successful First Year of Auctions:

The results of California's fifth carbon auction were released today, marking an important environmental milestone for the state – one year since the debut of its cap-and-trade system.

2. California’s LCFS Ruling is a Win for Consumers and Alternative Fuels Companies:

Last week, we saw a big win for California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) – a regulation to diversify the state’s fuel mix with lower carbon sources of energy.  After almost a year of deliberation, the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals filed a decision in the case Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, et al. v. Corey, in favor of California.

3. LASER: Turning the climate threat into a story of opportunity for Los Angeles:

I’m an L.A. guy, so I like to think about things in epic story lines. And with today's launch of EDF and UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation new "LASER" maps (Los Angeles Solar & Efficiency Report), I think we’ve got a real blockbuster on our hands.

4. A Blueprint for Advancing California’s Strong Leadership on Global Climate Change:

A key reason California has become a global leader on climate change is its ability to successfully adopt the Global Warming Solutions Act, the state’s climate law that uses market-based tools to significantly reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emission levels. A group of tropical forest experts has now presented a blueprint for how California can secure significantly more reductions in global warming pollution than the law requires, while keeping pollution control costs down and helping stop the catastrophe of tropical deforestation.

5. Scoping Plan 2.0: Taking Action Today for a Clean Energy Future:

Today, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released its draft 2013 Scoping Plan, the blueprint outlining how the State will address climate change over the next five years, reach its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and create a path for even deeper reductions beyond 2020.

6. Seeing Green: Emission Reducing Fuel Policies Help Lower Gas Prices:

Californians struggling with high gas prices should feel optimistic about the future.  A new memo [PDF] by economists from EDF and Chuck Mason, a prominent economist at the University of Wyoming, demonstrates that policies established to reduce emissions and help the state reach its climate change goals also help to arm consumers at the pump

7. At a Key Moment for Energy, California Should Seize Demand Response:

Traditionally, if an area’s population grows — or it loses a power plant — it needs more energy. But California and some other states can approach it differently and reduce the use of fossil fuels. Instead of asking, How can we add more energy?” the real question becomes “How can we reduce demand?”

8. Offset Market Alive and Well in California:

Congratulations to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as they announced plans to issue the first CARB Offset Credits or ARBOCs.  These 600,000 metric tons of offsets helps the state move closer towards our emissions reductions goals.  Compliance entities, such as utility and oil and gas companies, can use these offsets to meet up to 8% of their compliance obligation

9. Environment: California didn't do so badly this year:

Despite some particularly unexplainable losses if you care about protecting the environment, the California Legislature made progress in 2013. The range of bills on the governor's desk awaiting his signature confirms that California remains the stalwart energy and climate leader in the country.

10. Historic Agreement Demonstrates Broad Commitment to Build Clean Energy Economy:

With the stroke of a pen, North American efforts to combat climate change and promote clean energy reached a new level today.

11. Hopeful signs for U.S. and Chinese Cooperation on Climate Change:

The past week has offered a thrilling glimpse into the future for the millions of people around the U.S. and across the world who are yearning for real solutions to climate change.  On June 18, Shenzhen, an economically-vibrant city of 15 million on the South China Sea, launched the first of seven Chinese regional pilot carbon market systems slated to begin by the end of 2014.

12. Major California Refineries Logging Big Pollution Reductions Under AB 32:

It is well-documented that petroleum refineries release large amount of pollutants that are harmful to the environment and make people sick.  In California, these refineries are among the largest sources of carbon dioxide, accounting for 7 of the top 10 sources for climate pollution. According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, refineries can also emit large amount of toxic compounds, including carcinogens and respiratory irritants.

13. Ruling gives bright green light for investment in pollution reduction projects in California:

California’s landmark clean energy bill AB 32 received a big boost today from the San Francisco California Superior Court in the case Citizen’s Climate Lobby et. al., v. California Air Resources Board.

Also posted in Cap and trade, Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Engaging Latinos, Global Warming Solutions Act: AB 32, Linkage, Offsets| 1 Response, comments now closed