A new study, The National Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Study, released in July may just provide a path to an improved version of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). The purpose of the study, which was conducted by a group of researchers from UC-Davis, the Universities of Illinois and Maine, Carnegie Mellon, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the International Food Policy Research Institute, was two-fold:
The result is what researchers call “a hybrid of a regulatory and market policy instrument. It does not include mandates for any particular fuel or technology and as such does not attempt to pick winners or losers. Instead, it defines an average emissions intensity standard . . . that all energy providers must achieve across all fuels they provide. Many options exist for meeting the standard. Regulated parties are free to employ any combination of strategies that suits their particular circumstances and perspectives—including the purchase of credits from other companies.
”In the report, researchers lay out their recommendations for crafting this national low carbon fuel standard. Included in the thirteen recommendations are the following:
Set a target of reducing the carbon intensity (lifecycle GHG emissions) of gasoline and diesel by 10-15 percent by 2030.
The timing of this report could not have been better. RFS2 is currently on shaky ground for a number of reasons:
Researchers suggest that RFS2 should be revised to incorporate the national LCFS or that the LCFS should replace it altogether. What are the chances that a national LCFS could pass through Congress and be signed into law? Dan Sperling, director of the national LCFS project and director of the Institution of Transportation Studies at the University of California told Ethanol Producer magazine reporter Susanne Retka Schill that he “expects the report to be received with open minds. When asked when what its chances are to become national policy, he said that six months ago he would have expected it to take years of discussion and work to get a LCFS through Congress. Now, with criticisms of the renewable fuel standard (RFS) rising, he thinks it could be sooner. . . . He also said there is such strong support for alternative fuels and biofuels for national security reasons and rural economic development impacts that an attempt to kill the RFS entirely would not be successful.” With its technology and feedstock neutral approach, an LCFS designed using the recommendations in the study may be just the solution we need.