Thursday, April 23, 2009

California: sets a new standard for clean fuels

California took a solid step today in dealing with reducing the state's carbon footprint with the state Air Resources Board voting 9-1 in favor of adopting new regulations for greenhouse gas emissions from fuel.

The regulation requires producers, refiners and importers of gasoline and diesel to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuel by 10% over the next decade. And it launches the state on an ambitious path toward ratcheting down its overall heat-trapping emissions by 80% by mid-century — a level that scientists deem necessary to avoid drastic global climate disruption.

This is a first for any U.S. state and could set the standard worldwide. Regulations like this promote the development of alternative fuels, nudging the major energy companies to invest in greener alternatives like cellulosic ethanol made from trash, as opposed to the popular corn ethanol that is, in many ways, no better than petroleum-based fuels.

The regulation also is a positive step for entrepreneurs who are looking for new opportunities in alternative fuels. California will soon have its first cellulosic ethanol plant in Southern California's upper desert. The facility will process 170 tons of garbage a day to produce 3.7 million gallons of ethanol a year. Estimated cost per gallon: about $2, according to Arnold Klann of BlueFire Ethanol Fuels.

"California's low-carbon fuel standard is going to set the standard for the U.S. and, I expect, the standard globally," said Graeme S.S. Sweeney, a Shell executive vice president. "There will be a series of commercial-sized plants in the next five years. There will be different technologies. It will be good to see competition."

And that coming from one of the major energy/oil companies! I've always said that for energy companies to fully embrace a paradigm shift to alternative fuels, they will need to see the commercial advantage in it. Apparently, they are getting the message . . . and planet Earth should be the better for it.

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