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CARB amends Low Carbon Fuel Standard for wider impact

CARB’s legislation aims to reduce the carbon intensity California’s transportation fuel by 20%

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved changes to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) designed to make the programme a more versatile, comprehensive tool in the fight against climate change.

Since 2011, the LCFS has been a cornerstone of California’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions and has spurred innovation in low-carbon transportation fuels such as hydrogen, electricity and biodiesel. Last year, the LCFS resulted in more than 2 billion gallons of petroleum and natural gas being replaced with cleaner, renewable transportation fuels.

The standard currently requires a 10% reduction in the “carbon intensity” of California’s transportation fuels by 2020. Carbon intensity is determined by the amount of carbon emitted throughout a fuel’s entire life cycle, from extraction or production to combustion.

The amendments approved by the board require a 20% reduction in carbon intensity by 2030, the most stringent requirement in the nation. The new requirement aligns with California’s overall 2030 target of reducing climate changing emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, which was set by Senate Bill 32 and signed by Governor Brown in 2016.

“These amendments will take California’s climate fight up another notch,” said board chair Mary D. Nichols. “The addition of credits for alternative aviation fuels makes the programme more flexible and adds a major source of potential greenhouse gas reductions. Using some of the credits to give a new car buyer a break on electric transportation will provide a clear incentive for zero emission vehicle sales and infrastructure, as requested by the legislature and Governor Brown.”

The amendments incentivise development of additional zero emission vehicle infrastructure and the sale of electric and hydrogen vehicles, building on utilities ability to collect LCFS credits based on charging, and adding provisions to jump start infrastructure installation through credits generated based on the expected capacity of fast charging and hydrogen refuelling stations.

The LCFS programme is implemented using a system of tradeable credits, each of which is equivalent to one tonne of carbon. Credits are generated by producers of cleaner fuels and can be sold to producers whose product will not meet the programme’s declining benchmark for carbon intensity.

In the case of utilities, credits are generated based on charging for zero emission vehicles. Part of the proceeds from sale of those utility credits will be used to increase the rebates from utilities to drivers purchasing electric vehicles.

The amendments also restructure the various utility vehicle rebate programmes into a single pool so application and payment processes are uniform regardless of which utility is involved, and so the rebates can be made available through small utilities as well as large ones.

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