The Promise of Clean Fuels in the West, and Beyond
California is not alone in seeking to advance clean energy and climate policies – Washington, Oregon and British Columbia (which, along with California, comprise the Pacific Coast Collaborative, or PCC) all have agreed to take meaningful action to reduce their carbon emissions. One way to accomplish this is through low carbon fuel policies, like California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), which has been a focus of the CA Business Alliance for a Clean Economy for several years.
Today, the International Council on Clean Transportation and E4tech released a report (available here) which examined what would happen if all four PCC jurisdictions adopted clean fuel standards. The report finds that doing so is feasible, from a fuel-supply perspective, and would likely result in substantial reductions in oil consumption and carbon emissions.
One of the most illuminating findings in this report is how broad the potential landscape of low-carbon fuel solutions appears to be. There are many different combinations of fuels, including electricity, biofuels, natural gas, and hydrogen, which allow the Pacific Coast to reduce the amount of emissions coming from its transportation sector. It’s clear that different approaches to clean transportation can co-exist rather than compete.
I have long advocated that in order for California to achieve its clean energy goals, businesses and consumers must have an array of energy options from which to choose. This new report illustrates how success does not hinge on the development of any single technology but rather a portfolio approach.
It’s easy to visualize a clean energy future if you are willing to assume that advanced, zero-emission technology will rapidly achieve low-cost, large-scale deployment. The ICCT study indicates that there’s room for all types of fuels and technologies over the next decade, and mixing and matching the most promising options can get us a long way toward our goal.
Having a diverse mix of resources contributing to transportation maximizes the opportunities for business in the near term. Low carbon fuel policies, like California’s LCFS, allow a wide range of technologies to find fertile ground and allow innovative companies unique opportunities to commercialize their products.
No one is yet certain what clean transportation will look like 20 years from now – will it include decentralized solutions which closely reflect local conditions or large consolidated operations which take advantage of economies of scale? The ICCT report shows that from a policy perspective, we don’t have to make a choice – different approaches can keep us on the glide path toward long term clean energy progress.