California Keeps Rolling to a Clean Transportation Future

Continuing the momentum after the Global Climate Action Summit, California took the next steps to meeting its climate and clean air requirements by taking the next steps on its Low Carbon Fuels Standard, its Clean Car Standards, and proposing an Innovative Clean Transit Rule to make all new transit buses zero-emitting by 2029.

Low Carbon Fuels Standard

The California Air Resources Board voted to strengthen and extend the Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS) from 2020, requiring a 20% reduction in the carbon footprint of transportation fuels by 2030. As I have blogged on before, the LCFS has become one of the state’s most effective climate-change fighting policies, already helping avoid the equivalent of nearly 40 million metric tons and increasing low-carbon fuel use by 74% since the start of the program in 2010. By 2020, it is expected that by increasing the use of cleaner fuels, the state will be able to avoid another ‘4-coal fired plants worth’ of carbon pollution annually and ‘7-coal fired plants worth’ by 2030.

New-technology options to reduce carbon-emissions were also added to the program including the inclusion of alternative or renewable fuels for aviation, substitution of high-carbon process fuels used by the petroleum industry with renewable sources, and the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) by fuel producers to further keep carbon out of the atmosphere.

The amendments also restructure the ways electric utilities provide LCFS credit value to electric vehicle customers by creating a more uniform, state-wide “Clean Fuels Reward” program. Under the program, electric vehicle customers will receive a LCFS “Clean Fuels Reward” at the point-of-purchase to make it more consumer-friendly. In addition, amendments were added that provide additional “capacity-based” credits to infrastructure developers of DC fast charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles and hydrogen stations for fuel cell vehicles. While staff included specific time and quantity-based limits to the crediting, the Board directed staff to report back on each of the provisions and to make technical changes if needed.

The program amendments, as Mary Nichols stated, “Will take California’s climate fight up another notch.”

Clean Car Standards

The Air Resources Board also voted unanimously to reinforce that the will continue to preserve the stringency of the state clean cars program and maintain California’s leadership role. As NRDC stated in our testimony before the Board: “Now, more than ever, we need California’s leadership on clean cars. The state continues to suffer from dangerous levels of air pollution, heat waves, wildfires, and other effects of climate change. We support the actions California is taking today to maintain its leadership role.”

With the Trump Administration now proposing to rollback federal clean cars and fuel economy standards that would upend the prior agreement, California’s action makes even clearer that automakers would need to comply with California standards if the federal standards are weakened or inconsistent. Doing so will ensure that automakers will continue meeting their obligations under California’s requirements—as well as those of twelve other states that have adopted clean car programs—rather than losing a significant amount of the emission reduction benefits and associated consumer savings as displayed in the figure below.

ARB Staff Presentation to the Board, 9/28/2018, Low Emission Vehicle Program
https://www.arb.ca.gov/board/books/2018/092718/18-7-5pres.pdf

Innovative Clean Transit Rule

California, as part of the Global Climate Action Summit, joined with numerous jurisdictions throughout the world to commit to moving to zero-emission transit buses (ZEB). In fact, China has already converted hundreds of thousands of buses in major cities to tackle their significant air pollution challenges—adding the equivalent of a “London-sized electric bus fleet every five weeks” according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The staff of the Air Resources Board presented a proposal before the Board on its Innovative Clean Transit Rule. While the Board will vote whether to adopt the rule later this year,  the proposal would require large transit fleet operators to have 25% of any new bus purchases be zero-emitting in 2023 and then 100% of bus purchases be zero-emitting in 2029. Smaller transit fleets would have additional time to begin phasing in ZEBs. Additional flexibility would be provided to those transit fleets that already have or plan on procuring ZEBs prior to 2023 or that utilize other zero-emission options (bike share, car sharing, vanpool or micro transit). In the meantime, starting in 2020, conventional bus purchases will need to meet low-NOx emission standards starting in 2020 and utilize renewable fuels. The requirements are being coupled together with a mix of generous incentives for transit agencies and credit value for using low-carbon fuels under the LCFS. Overall, the agency found that transit agencies would stand to see savings overall thanks to the large operating cost savings associated with ZEBs.

ARB Presentation to the Board, 9/28/2018, Innovative Clean Transit Rule
https://www.arb.ca.gov/board/books/2018/092718/18-7-6pres.pdf

With these three regulations, California will continue to roll towards its climate and air pollution goals. Californians—and residents from other jurisdictions that are adopting similar standards—will be able to breathe easier with the roll-out of cleaner fuels and vehicles, save money from more efficient and lower-cost clean fuels, all while addressing climate change.

About the Authors

Simon Mui

Senior Scientist, Climate & Clean Energy Program

Irene Gutierrez

Senior Attorney, Nature Program

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.