Contributor: Sarah Severn
The proposed Clean Fuel Standard for Washington is well-designed to achieve two vital objectives: the reduction of greenhouse gas pollutants that cause climate change, and the expansion of in state production of low carbon fuels. It's a triple win for economic, environmental and energy security goals.
During my 20 plus years at Nike Inc, before I moved to Washington State a large portion of my work was focused on helping Nike reduce its greenhouse gas footprint across multiple pathways. I also led the establishment of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy. Those two decades showed me how many businesses, not just Nike, have stepped up to embrace clean energy, and yet time and again I witnessed fossil fuel interests get in the way of genuine progress, particularly in the area of policy. I am seeing that same pattern repeat itself here in Washington State. Meanwhile businesses that are trying to deploy clean energy or provide innovative, low carbon solutions at a local level are being ignored and the health of our citizens is being compromised.
A Clean Fuel Standard is an important step in the direction of a fossil free future. It would create substantial opportunities to expand agricultural jobs in rural counties producing sustainable biomass feedstocks including canola, camelina and animal fats. In addition, low carbon fuels increasingly can be produced from waste oils (biodiesel), separated municipal solid wastes (ethanol and drop in fuels), and dairy manure and waste organics (renewable natural gas). The increasing demand for these waste-derived fuels reduces landfilling, nutrient waste run-offs, and other negative environmental consequences, and transforms waste into feedstock.
We know this will work. California’s low carbon fuel program has been in place for five years, has reduced 10 million metric tons of carbon pollution, and is invisible to its citizens. Based on a recent status review completed by the University of California at Davis, there is ample supply of low carbon fuels and California’s program is currently costing citizens less than half a penny per gallon of gasoline.
Over the long-term, a Clean Fuel Standard will save Washingtonians millions of dollars by creating new jobs in the state, reducing demand for gasoline, enabling the production of fuel from waste and agricultural by-products, and providing a market window for electric vehicles that cost consumers less on a per mile basis. My own very affordable Smart fortwo, zero emissions electric car achieves 3.7miles per Kwhr. That’s costing me about 70 cents a day to drive an average of 30 miles, a lot less than the gasoline version, and with vastly reduced maintenance costs. It has a lot of fans amongst the local community here.
Ultimately we need consistency across the West Coast region. OR and CA both have low carbon fuel programs and have managed to resist efforts by the oil industry to derail them. Governor Kate Brown signed the clean fuels bill into law in March, despite attacks by the oil industry. The Western States Petroleum Association even wrote the framework for a clean fuels replacement proposal and are suing in federal court to block implementation. For now the bill stands..
In February of this year Ryan Deckert of Oregon Business Association (OBA) said “The Clean Fuels Program meets the test of incenting economic development here in Oregon. California's program has attracted more than $5 billion in the clean transportation industry. Oregon should work to capitalize on the same benefits of innovation.” Washington business groups should show the same level of long term thinking and resist oil industry scare tactics. Choosing between clean fuels and a transportation package is a false choice. We can and should have both.