Obama, Harkin Introduce Low-Carbon Fuel Standard that Would Reduce Emissions, Dependence on Foreign Oil
U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) today introduced legislation establishing a National Low-Carbon Fuel Standard that would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions in the short and long-term. The bill requires a reduction of about 180 million metric tons in emissions in 2020 - the equivalent of taking over 30 million cars off the road. The Obama-Harkin fuel standard embraces the growth of the renewable fuels market, including corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel as a key component of fighting climate change, while incentivizing lower carbon emissions in their production.
"Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles is one of the most aggressive and immediate steps we can take to fight climate change," said Senator Obama. "Expanding the renewable fuels market in the United States will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, revitalize our agricultural sector, and provide a sustainable means to combat global warming. A homegrown solution to the international climate crisis lies in America's fields and farms. "
"It's time to act on climate change," said Senator Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "We've got to begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and emissions from our vehicles need to be a part of that. This bill sets a standard that establishes a steady downward trend for life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of our transportation fuels. Because biofuels generally have lower life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, this bill also promotes rural economic development and national energy security."
The U.S. relies on imports for 60% of the petroleum it consumes, and the oil used in the U.S. transportation sector accounts for one-third of our nation's emissions of greenhouse gases. Senators Obama and Harkin have introduced a bill establishing a National Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (NLCFS) that will reduce both our dependence on foreign oil and our greenhouse gas emissions.
The National Low Carbon Fuel Standard Act of 2007 will:
* Provide near-term demand certainty to renewable fuel producers. The Renewable Fuel Standard in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 will be expanded in the near-term to require 15 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2012.
* Expand the market for low-carbon fuels over the long-term. The NLCFS requires fuel refiners that produce petroleum-based fuels to reduce the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of the transportation fuels sold in the U.S. by 5 percent in 2015 and 10 percent in 2020. Because most biofuels have lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline, the NLCFS will greatly expand the market for renewable fuels such as corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel while incentivizing lower carbon emissions in their production. By one estimate, the NLCFS will create a market for over 40 billion gallons of biofuels by 2020.
* Drive the production of ultra-low carbon fuels. The bill requires fuel refiners to use minimum amounts of fuels with 50 and 75 percent lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline. This requirement signals to investors that there will be a market for advanced fuels, but still allows significant leeway for fuel refiners to choose the optimal mix of fuels to meet their overall greenhouse gas emissions targets.
* Utilize a credit trading mechanism. Fuel refiners can trade allowances or bank them against future carbon reduction requirements.
* Ensure an environmentally sustainable biofuels expansion. The bill ensures that the expansion of biofuels production does not impact national wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests, old-growth forests, or national grasslands. The bill calls for an assessment of the impacts of the expansion, including a comparison to the business-as-usual scenario of continued reliance on petroleum-based transportation fuels, and the development of standards by 2012 to protect air, land, and water quality.
* Achieve a major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. According to one estimate, the NLCFS would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 180 million metric tons in 2020. This is the equivalent of taking over 30 million cars off the road in 2020. If enacted in conjunction with a bill (S. 768) proposed by Senator Obama to raise fuel efficiency standards, the NLCFS would reduce emissions by about 530 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2020, the equivalent of taking over 50 million cars off the road.
* Achieve a major reduction in oil imports. By making greater use of home-grown, renewable fuels, the NLCFS could reduce the annual consumption of gasoline derived from foreign oil imports by about 30 billion gallons in 2020.