Washington State Takes Next Step on Clean Fuels Standard

Washington's Department of Ecology took another step today by releasing a discussion document about a state Clean Fuels Standard (CFS) for public input and comments.

The documents released show that the oil industry and petroleum-based transportation fuels are the largest source of carbon pollution in the state - over 40% - but that a wide range of alternative fuel sources could significantly reduce that pollution while attracting additional clean fuel investments and companies to the state.

The flexible nature of the requirements allow oil refineries and distributors to gradually provide cleaner fuels over time, ensuring that these clean fuels are economically viable and available to residents of the state. Washington's proposal uses a performance-based approach that doesn't pick technology winners, allowing companies to be rewarded for producing or incorporating greater amounts of cleaner fuels, such as advanced renewable fuels produced from agricultural waste, clean electricity used for transportation, and even capturing biomethane from landfills to use in natural gas trucks, among many other options.

The CFS would begin, under the draft documents, in 2017 with a quarter of a percent (0.25%) reduction level in the carbon footprint of fuels, growing to a 10% reduction level by 2025. Washington's Dept. of Ecology also proposes to also include, as part of a clean fuels standard, a cost containment which would cap the oil industry's costs to comply while maintaining a strong market signal for clean fuel investments.

An earlier analysis released by the Department of Finance, as blogged on by Ben Serrurier with Climate Solutions, found economic benefits in every major indicator including gross state product, personal income, employment as well as decreases in air pollutants.

More Fuel Options for Consumers

Today, when drivers fill up their gas tanks, they don't have a lot of choices other than buying gasoline from oil companies and being subjected to volatile global crude oil prices. While oil prices have currently fallen over the past several months, the only certainty from market experts seems to be that oil prices will remain volatile going forward. As clean fuels become more available and affordable through the CFS, drivers will have more options. For example, the cost of electricity as a fuel is currently the equivalent to roughly a buck a gallon nationally, according to the Edison Electric Institute (and even lower and cleaner in Washington).

Protecting Our Health and Environment

Clean fuels reduce greenhouse gases and other air pollutants that cause asthma, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, according to a report by the American Lung Association and Environmental Defense Fund. These health problems disproportionately affect children, the elderly and hard-working blue-collar communities. They also take people out of the workforce and run up health care expenses.

As Washington moves to take common-sense steps to transition from oil dependency to cleaner, safer and renewable forms of fuel, the oil industry will no doubt continue to fund its campaign up and down the West Coast to undermine clean fuel standards, including the creation and funding of its 16 front groups purporting to be citizen or consumer groups. It'll be up to Washington residents, business, and organizations to support Washington moving forward to remain a leader in economic growth, provide more fuel options, and to protect residents against harmful pollutants.