California Governor Announces World’s First Global Warming Pollution Standard for Motor Fuels

Consumers Will Have More and Better Choices at Pump, says NRDC
SACRAMENTO (January 9, 2007) – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced the first big step to implement California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). Through an executive order that will direct the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to begin the process of adopting the world’s first global warming pollution standard for motor vehicle fuels, the governor is accelerating action to reduce one of the leading sources of heat-trapping pollution, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The executive order requires CARB to develop rules for oil companies and other providers of passenger vehicle fuels sold in California to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants by 10 percent by 2020. The order clarifies oil companies’ responsibility to help the state meet the requirement to reduce its total emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, NRDC said. Transportation fuels account for more than 40 percent of California’s global warming emissions.
“We can’t solve global warming without reducing our dependence on oil,” said Roland Hwang, NRDC’s vehicles policy director. “A low-carbon fuel standard is a critical step in ensuring the state will meet its targets for reducing global warming pollution.”
Companies would be able to comply with the standard using existing and emerging clean fuel technologies. These include cellulosic ethanol; electricity used to charge plug-in hybrid vehicles; compressed natural gas; and hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles. Alternatively, companies could purchase credits, either from traditional fuel suppliers that exceed the standard, or from a new class of low-carbon fuel suppliers, such as electric utilities, ethanol producers and hydrogen manufacturers.
“Not only will California continue to drive the nation in combating global warming, but California drivers will benefit from greater choices at the pump and reduced exposure to gasoline price shocks,” said Hwang. “Since California is the largest transportation fuels market in the country, investments are likely to shift immediately from more oil drilling to commercializing the clean fuels of the future.”
NRDC estimates the benefits of the “Low-Carbon Fuel Standard” in 2020 will be to:
  • Cut global warming pollution from passenger vehicles by more than 13 million metric tons ofcarbon dioxide, equal to the emissions from three million cars;
  • Displace 20 percent of on-road gasoline consumption with low-carbon fuels, reducing consumption by roughly 3 billion gallons of gasoline per year, equivalent to the output of 2.5 average-sized California refineries;
  • Triple, quadruple or even quintuple the California renewable fuels market – already the largest in the nation – to up to 4.5 billion gallons of ethanol, with more than half being made from extremely low-carbon, cellulosic materials, such as agricultural waste and switchgrass; and
  • Put more than 7 million alternative fuel, plug-in hybrid, battery electric and fuel cell vehicles on the road.
“This means that oil companies will have to contribute their fair share to meet California’s global warming goals,” said Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of NRDC’s energy program. “And since the standard will be purely performance-based, the market, not the government, will choose the winners.”
The “Low-Carbon Fuel Standard” would be measured in terms of global warming emissions per unit of energy sold. Emissions would be measured on a “well-to-wheel” basis, which takes into account the pollution impacts of producing and using the fuel. CARB rulemakings typically take two years to complete, which would provide sufficient lead time for the standard to be enforced beginning in 2010. It likely would be phased in over a 10-year period.
The Global Warming Solutions Act by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) and former Assembly member Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) passed the Legislature in August 2006 and was signed into law the following month. For more information, visit