Potential low carbon fuel supply to the Pacific Coast region of North America

Published: 2015.01.23

Chris Malins, Nic Lutsey, Sebastian Galarza, Zhenying Shao, Stephanie Searle (ICCT),  Claire Chudziak, Maarten van den Berg (E4tech)

This study investigates the potential to meet the fuel carbon goals of four jurisdictions of the Pacific Coast region, simultaneously. California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, British Columbia’s Low Carbon Fuel Requirements, and Oregon and Washington’s proposed Clean Fuel Standards all seek to reduce the carbon intensity of vehicle fuels over time. California’s and British Columbia’s policies call for a 10% reduction in carbon intensity by 2020, to be accomplished through displacing gasoline and diesel by lower-carbon renewable fuels and shifting the composition of the vehicle fleet toward alternative fuel vehicles.

The study presents eight scenarios for low-carbon fuel supply, including varying amounts of electricity, hydrogen, ethanol, biodiesel, renewable diesel, next generation cellulosic biofuel, and natural gas in the Pacific Coast region. Potential carbon savings are estimated by comparing the expected carbon intensity of these alternative fuels to the carbon intensity of the fossil fuels they replace. This analysis is novel in its evaluation of fuel availability across the four jurisdictions simultaneously, in its consideration of resource and industry constraints, and its quantification of fuel carbon intensity according to the adopted fuel policy lifecycle carbon ratings.

The analysis shows that there is a range of options available to decarbonize the region’s transport and to meet the policy targets. Based on a detailed modeling study of low-carbon fuel technologies and production pathways, the study presents four primary conclusions:

  1. Low-carbon fuels can replace over a quarter of the gasoline and diesel used by vehicles in the Pacific Coast region by 2030.
  2. Low-carbon fuels can reduce the overall carbon intensity of on-road transportation fuels in the region by 14%–21% by 2030.
  3. The specific fuel policy targets established or proposed by the region’s state and provincial governments for fuel carbon intensity reductions can be met in a variety of ways involving conventional biofuels, electric-drive, natural gas, and advanced cellulosic biofuels.
  4. Decarbonization goals do not require a dramatic breakthrough in any one particular technology; many different technologies exist and are emerging that can be deployed for similar oil-saving and climate mitigation benefits.
PDF icon Summary2.66 MB