Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court not to consider three cases challenging California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) settles a major challenge to America’s low-carbon fuel transition, and brings the full emissions reductions potential of biofuels closer to reality.
At the heart of this lawsuit was methodology CARB established to calculate the carbon intensity of various biofuel’s lifecycle emissions – covering every aspect of biofuel use, from growth to harvest to transportation and eventual consumption of fuels.
Policy That Improves Over Time
To meet CARB’s methodology, biofuel producers must either meet a specified annual intensity or purchase credits to offset any difference. Considering the entire fuel lifecycle is critical to the environmental integrity of biofuels – after all, what good are renewable fuels that burn cleaner than gasoline if emissions associated with production and transportation create a similar pollution profile as fossil fuels?
CARB has repeatedly revisited its lifecycle emissions modeling process to ensure fair regulations as science has evolved, most notably in the area of indirect land use changes (ILUC). The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) has consistently supported these decisions, and continues to support the LCFS as a powerful tool in cutting emissions and slowing global warming.
Brazil Proves LCFS Naysayers Wrong
Opponents of CARB’s LCFS – primarily corn-based ethanol and fossil fuel-based gasoline producers – argued the landmark policy discriminates against out-of-state biofuel producers through higher carbon intensity standards that assign weight to long transportation distances, but like today’s Supreme Court decision, the Brazilian experience shows that’s not the case.
Despite ever-stricter standards, CARB has re-iterated sugarcane ethanol has one of the lowest emissions profiles of any biofuel supplying today’s biofuels market – even when our product ships internationally, not just across state borders.
We’re proud of the steps we’ve taken to ensure a sustainable ethanol lifecycle compared to other biofuels, including less frequent replanting and soil tilling requirements, higher fuel production yields, use of leftover stalks and leaves (bagasse) for bioelectricity, and efficient shipping methods.
Implications For Clean Fuel’s Future
CARB’s strict standards requiring transportation fuels sold in-state to be 10% less carbon intensive by 2020 are important to America’s low-carbon transportation future. Not only is California the largest U.S. transportation fuel market, but several other states are also considering adopting similar legislation.
By refusing to hear these challenges to the LCFS, the Supreme Court has both reaffirmed California’s progressive leadership and propped open the door for additional measures intended to maximize the emissions-cutting potential of biofuels.
Brazil’s sugarcane ethanol industry shows assessing the full lifecycle emissions of biofuels works from both an economic and environmental perspective, especially when biofuels producers work with, not against regulators as they improve policy.
We applaud the Supreme Court’s choice to listen to a chorus of voices supporting a low-emissions transportation future by reaffirming the LCFS and keeping truly cleaner fuels flowing to American drivers.