Scientists, utilities urge Low Carbon Fuel Standard

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Future fuels will be cleaner and cheaper with more "Made in America" status if the U.S. adopts a national Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). That's the belief of scientists from six of the nation's leading research institutions, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of California, the University of Illinois, the University of Maine, Carnegie Mellon University, and the International Food Policy Research Institute.

An LCFS would require all energy companies to meet a common goal for carbon intensity; the companies themselves would decide how to reach that goal, encouraging innovation and diversity by harnessing market forces.

"A national Low Carbon Fuel Standard is a promising framework to help solve the transportation energy challenges that have eluded us for several decades," said Dr. Daniel Sperling, Director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California – Davis, who was joined by electric utility, biofuel and automotive industry representatives in a briefing on Capitol Hill. "Technologically, an LCFS is very doable. And it can help us address the complex choices with conventional oil, shale gas, oil sands, biofuels and electric vehicles."

According to researchers, a national LCFS creates a strong market signal that attracts investment and spurs innovation in clean fuel technologies, increases consumption of clean fuels and lowers average consumer fuel prices, for a total savings of $411 billion on fuel expenditures by 2035. This could be achieved, in part, by deep reductions in emissions from transportation both medium- and long-term through wider adoption of plug-in electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles that run on hydrogen, researchers say. Further, the researchers say that fuels from waste materials – agricultural and forestry leftovers to municipal waste – are another important source of low-carbon fuel.

"Our current energy posture has left America's economy exposed to global oil price shocks and high oil import costs," said Paul Leiby of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. "An LCFS would substitute domestic resources like ethanol, natural gas, and electricity for imported oil, providing energy security savings up to $22 a barrel."

For more:
- see the report
- read the policy recommendations

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