In Defense of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard

In late December, a federal court district judge in Fresno ruled that California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) was unconstitutional because it violates the limits imposed on states by the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The ruling halted its enforcement pending appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The suit was filed by refiners, truckers, and fuel production companies – most of which have the bulk of their operations out of state and would rather litigate than innovate, putting profits before people. It is yet another industry attack on the state’s landmark climate and energy law, AB 32, which consists of measures such as the LCFS that will be used to reduce California’s greenhouse gas pollution to 1990 levels by 2020.

California’s LCFS is a scientifically credible standard that was carefully designed to cut climate change pollution, protect and improve public health and drive innovation that delivers economic benefits. These are among the key reasons why Environmental Defense Fund joined California and three other environmental organizations in an appeal of the suit asking to keep the LCFS intact.

Cutting climate pollution

As designed, the LCFS reduces the amount of carbon released during the production, shipping and use of transportation fuels sold in California by 10% between now and 2020. This “lifecycle” approach to managing emissions from fuels was pioneered by Argonne National Labs and is the accepted standard used by the federal EPA and other states and nations.

Improving air quality

California has some of the worst air quality in the country. In addition to fighting climate change, the LCFS cuts pollution that poisons our air and water and results in respiratory ailments and diseases that cost us tens of billions of dollars a year in health care costs. By facilitating newer, less polluting transportation fuels, the LCFS can help California finally achieve attainment of federal health standards for air quality.

Driving innovation

The standard would deliver significant benefits to the state and national economy. California is home to the world’s most advanced biofuel and electric car companies, hydrogen infrastructure, and transportation fuel research institutions. These entities operate here because California has created an environment where scientific enterprises can prosper, and in the case of the LCFS, earn a return on investment by reducing pollution cheaply and quickly. Over the next decade, the standard provides new opportunity for innovators in and out of California to reap the rewards of developing cheap and lasting alternatives to gasoline.

The deep-pocketed oil industry can easily afford to protect its profits. Yet, as The New York Times recently noted in an editorial under the headline, ‘California’s Persistence,’ the industry is up against a state that ‘has a long and productive history as a leader in environmental policy, requiring cleaner cars and power plants and more energy-efficient appliances.’

We are confident that this standard will be restored on appeal, enabling California to continue doing what it excels at: driving advances in energy that grow the economy and protect our environment.

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