Recap: Low Carbon Fuel Standard Policy Forum

On January 29th, the New York League of Conservation Voters and the Clean Fuels NY coalition hosted a forum on the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)—a proposed state policy that would help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transportation sector.

To meet the mandates of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), New York must reduce its GHG emissions from the transportation sector, our largest source of emissions. Cars and trucks, which rely overwhelmingly on petroleum-based fuels, represent a significant portion of these emissions and contribute to harmful air pollution.

An LCFS would require fuel manufacturers and importers to reduce GHG emissions from the fuels that they make and sell. This could open the door for a variety of clean transportation technologies, including plug-in and fuel cell electric vehicles, trucks, buses, industrial equipment, and the improvement and expansion of zero-emission public transit.

Assemblymember Carrie Woerner, the bill’s prime sponsor, clarified the purpose of the bill, which is to reduce carbon emissions from on-road transportation 20% by 2030. An LCFS would provide market incentives for the production and supply of low-carbon fuels. Senator Kevin Parker, the prime sponsor in the State Senate, was unable to attend the forum.

Vignesh Gowrishankar, Associate Director of NRDC’s Climate & Clean Energy Program, advocated for New York to shift away from gasoline- and carbon-intensive fuels to cleaner sources of energy. He explained that under an LCFS, fuel would be evaluated based on its carbon intensity (CI): the greater the CI, the more deficits it would generate, while fuels with a lower CI would generate tradable credits. Higher CI fuel providers would have to purchase credits from the lower CI providers. In this way, an LCFS is a technology-neutral, market-based approach to transition our transportation systems toward cleaner alternatives, with electrification being the cleanest. Vignesh also highlighted how an LCFS policy in New York State would complement a regional effort to clean up transportation: the Transportation & Climate Initiative. 

Sam Wade from the Renewable Natural Gas Coalition, who helped implement California’s LCFS, shared their experience and emphasized that New York could reap similar benefits to California. The LCFS in California produced 11 million metric tons of GHG reductions in 2018 and a 4.3% reduction in overall carbon intensity. In addition, there is a $1.8 billion market for clean fuels. These benefits not only help fight climate change and improve air quality, but they also boost local economies by creating new jobs and opportunities for investment. 

Kevin Miller from Chargepoint, an electric vehicle charging station company, said that while transportation electrification is already growing steadily in New York, an LCFS would provide the incentives needed to clean up dirty fleets that are often difficult to electrify. By providing credits for the cleanest technologies, an LCFS will help ensure New Yorkers can afford electric vehicles and access the fast-charging technology needed to meet customer demand. 

From the renewable fuels sector, Bill Jorgenson and Dayne Delahoussaye provided examples of low carbon fuels that are greener than petroleum-based products. These included biodiesel, renewable diesel, renewable natural gas, ethanol, and hydrogen. Both speakers emphasized that an LCFS is important to help them produce renewable fuels, including fuels that are made from waste products like agricultural waste. These types of renewable fuel systems could also provide a valuable source of income for farmers across New York State.

Christine Weydig, the Environmental and Energy Director from the Port Authority of NY and NJ, said that while the Port Authority and many other fleet operators in New York are already moving toward cleaner alternatives like electrification, an LCFS would pave the way for new technologies, like renewable jet fuel, to enter the market. She also stressed the importance of an LCFS for improving air quality for communities situated near airports and other large transportation hubs. 

The event concluded with an audience Q&A and brief remarks from Julie Tighe, NYLCV President. While the presenters and panelists represented different sectors and interests, all agreed that an LCFS in New York State could bring many benefits, including economic investment, technological innovation, air quality improvements, and significant reductions in GHG emissions. Other states are moving in this direction, and it is important that New York remain a leader on the environment.