Over 100 of the Nation’s Top Scientists Call on CA Air Board to Eliminate Biases in the Proposed Low Carbon Fuel Standard

March 2, 2009

Group Acknowledges Common Goal of Producing Sustainable Alternative Fuels and Protecting Forests, But Says Current Proposal Tilts Playing Field in Favor of Fossil Fuels

LIVERMORE, Calif., March 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In a letter to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, more than 100 of the nation’s top scientists warned that the proposed Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) enforces a new and highly uncertain category of carbon emissions – called indirect or market-mediated effects – against only one type of fuel. The scientists acknowledged that all fuels have indirect carbon effects, but challenged the notion that they are well understood and are particularly critical of the plan to enforce indirect carbon effects on biofuels only.

Go here to see the letter:


The letter recommends that the State Board adopt an LCFS regulation based on direct carbon effects, or those emissions directly attributable to the production and use of the particular fuel. The model used to determine these effects is well-grounded and peer-reviewed, and for biofuel includes the land conversion needed to produce biofuel feedstock. California would then spearhead an international effort to investigate the indirect, market-mediated carbon effects of all fuels, including but not limited to biofuels.

“A fundamental principle of any comparative carbon lifecycle analysis, and of a performance standard in general, is that all fuels are judged through the same lens,” said Dr. Blake A. Simmons of Sandia National Laboratories, who led the effort to submit the letter. “We have abandoned that principle here.”

The scientists, who express their personal beliefs in the letter but conduct research at some of the most prestigious laboratories in the country, outlined two fundamental problems with the proposed LCFS. On the one hand, they challenge the science of indirect land use change, calling it “controversial” and in its “nascent stage” with “clear omissions relative to the real world.” On the other hand, they criticize the selective enforcement of indirect effects against biofuels only, saying, “[e]nforcing different compliance metrics against different fuels is the equivalent of picking winners and losers, which is in direct conflict with the ambition of the LCFS.”

“No level of certainty justifies asymmetrical enforcement of indirect effects,” continued Dr. Simmons. “What the current proposal basically says is that using more biofuel will have ripple effects in the economic marketplace but using more petroleum, natural gas or electricity to power our cars and trucks will have zero ripple effects in the marketplace, ” he added, “which is, of course, not the case.”

Some of the signatories are working on technologies to accelerate the commercialization of advanced biofuels from alternative crops and waste materials. They acknowledge the need to protect pristine lands and forests from unsustainable commercial development, but say the current asymmetrical treatment of biofuels will only undercut efforts to make biofuels more sustainable and less land-intensive.

“We do not think that enforcing an additional and highly uncertain carbon metric on biofuels will save a single acre of the rainforest,” said Dr. Bruce Dale of Michigan State University, “but a regulation biased against biofuels will chill investment in the type of fuel that could actually reduce the climate and ecological footprint of the U.S. transportation fuel sector in the near term.”

“This is the rare case in which a very complicated problem has a simple short term solution,” said Dr. Harvey W. Blanch, who is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. “An LCFS based on direct carbon effects advantages the optimal kind of biofuel without creating major and unjustifiable asymmetries in the regulation.”

The California Air Resources Board plans to submit the final rule to the State Board in late April, and will be releasing a completed initial plan by the end of the week.

Again, the entire letter can be read here:


The California Air Resources Board’s LCFS page. http://www.arb.ca.gov/fuels/lcfs/lcfs.htm

SOURCE Blake Simmons, Manager, Energy Systems Department, Sandia National Laboratories

Source: newswire

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