Low-Carbon Fuel Standard proposals would be costly and inefficient (w/video)
In his State of the State address, Gov. Jay Inslee called for a clean fuel standard, also known as a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS). A 2019 bill to implement such a rule, House Bill 1110, was reintroduced this year.
As lawmakers consider this proposal, it's important to keep in mind the potential costs and benefits, and weigh them carefully.
First, the costs, which are substantial.
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA), in a 2019 report, estimates that a low-carbon fuel standard would increase the cost of gasoline by up to 57 cents per gallon by 2030. Diesel would increase by up to 63 cents per gallon in the same 10-year timeframe.
The private sector would need to spend up to $2 billion to achieve compliance with a LCFS mandate.
And, remarkably, the clean air agency estimates that an LCFS would actually reduce the gross regional product (GRP) under every scenario it considered. In the scenario chosen, the LCFS would reduce the gross regional product across Washington state by $1.4 billion between its first year of implementation and 2030. And the agency's proposed rule has impacts that spread far beyond Seattle.
The costs would hit commuters, families and businesses across the state. So what about the benefits?
The only potential air quality benefit demonstrated is a reduction in small particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers (called PM2.5), which the authors of the PSCAA study admit is "mainly as a result of federal vehicle standards."
The agency's economic analysis does not quantify any of the other pollutants that make up greenhouse gas emissions, nor does it offer any form of an estimate on how regional emissions would be improved by implementing a LCFS.
We can turn to California, which is a full decade into its own experiment with an LCFS. The answer there comes as a stark warning to officials in Washington.
California officials estimate that their own costly LCFS has only reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector by 1.4%.
In fact, the California Legislative Analysis Office concludes that a LCFS is the most inefficient method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and recommends that California's leaders consider "modifying or eliminating" their LCFS altogether.