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.

As EDF argued on in the 9th Circuit, and as numerous experts confirm, the LCFS is a common sense standard based in firm science and law, designed to protect the environment and public health and strengthen the state’s low-carbon economy.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals strongly affirmed this by saying:

“California should be encouraged to continue and to expand its efforts to find a workable solution to lower carbon emissions, or to slow their rise. If no such solution is found, California residents and people worldwide will suffer great harm … The LCFS has been in effect for more almost three years, and — as intended – it is helping to bring innovative, cleaner fuels to California consumers.”

The LCFS enhances independence in two major ways:

1)      The LCFS gives Californians more freedom to choose their energy source. In a status quo fuel market, the state’s citizens are not generally free to choose where the fuels in their vehicles come from. Thus, Californians spend $60-80 billion on 17 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel to fuel approximately 30 million vehicles, which goes right into the pockets of large oil companies and further contributes to climate change.

Fortunately, the LCFS promotes clean alternatives to dirty fossil fuels. By incentivizing innovative energy sources, the LCFS helps to diversify our fuels using everything from biodiesel to natural gas from trash. This protects California drivers from wild, budget-busting gas price spikes that are all too common today.

2)     The LCFS gives Californians freedom from harmful air pollution. The LCFS aims to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels sold in California by 10 percent, or 16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, by 2020. This carbon pollution reduction means a corresponding reduction in the air pollution that is known to cause significant health impacts. This is particularly important in California, where the top five most polluted cities in the country are found. The LCFS, along with other fuel policies, translates to 880 saved lives and $8 billion in avoided health costs by 2025.

The LCFS capitalizes on a growing clean fuel industry, and catalyzes production improvements at oil fields and refineries. While the cycle of litigation will likely continue over LCFS – the 9th Circuit has sent the case back to the district court to apply further legal analysis- this milestone demonstrates that oil companies should put their money into innovation and growing the clean economy rather than spending it on lawsuits.

With the help of the LCFS and other clean fuel policies, California will see increased freedom from traditional dirty fossil fuels and dirty air. So, when you are enjoying fireworks this weekend, celebrate the fact that you and your family should be breathing more easily when next July 4th comes along.

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