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Obama Low Carbon Fuel Initiative Would Equal Taking 30 Million Cars Off the Road

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Obama Low Carbon Fuel Initiative Would Equal Taking 30 Million Cars Off the Road

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today offered a low carbon fuel standard that would require a 10 percent reduction in fuel emissions by 2020, the equivalent of taking 30 million cars off the road, as an amendment to the energy bill. The amendment is based on the National Low Carbon Fuel Standard Act he introduced with Senator Harkin earlier this year.

Senator Obama delivered the following remarks on the floor of the Senate:

"The facts about our nation's energy consumption are not pretty."

"The U.S. currently consumes one-quarter of the world's oil; 60% of the oil that we consume comes from foreign countries, including many countries whose interests are hostile to ours. To make matters worse, the oil used in the U.S. transportation sector accounts for one-third of our nation's emissions of greenhouse gases. It is long past time for the U.S. to take significant steps to use oil more efficiently in order to deal with the dual challenges of climate change and energy dependence."

"In January of this year, California took an important first step towards addressing this problem by establishing a low carbon fuel standard for passenger vehicle fuels sold in the state. Under the California standard, the carbon intensity of these fuels would be reduced by 10 percent by 2020."

"In signing the executive order creating the low carbon fuel standard, Governor Schwarzenegger noted just some of the dangers of his state's excessive reliance on gasoline: volatile oil prices dictated by hostile foreign countries; lack of economic security; American jobs at risk; businesses in jeopardy; and most importantly, dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions."

"I applaud the Governor's leadership on this issue, and now I want to take his proposal one giant step further. Today, I rise to discuss an amendment that I have introduced to establish a national low carbon fuel standard for the entire transportation fuel pool in this country - whether the fuel is used for cars, trucks, or airplanes."

"If my proposal were to become law, by the year 2015, the carbon emissions in our national fuel supply would be 5 percent less than they are now. By the year 2020, the carbon emissions would be 10 percent less."

"The effect of these seemingly modest reductions would be significant. According to one estimate, a national low carbon fuel standard 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."

"My approach would reduce carbon emissions overall in the transportation fuel pool, but it wouldn't dictate what feedstocks could satisfy the low carbon fuel standard or how many gallons of a particular fuel would have to be produced. Instead, fuels could be mixed and matched to achieve the carbon reduction targets."

"In essence, the market would dictate what pool of fuels would be sold in the U.S. in order to satisfy the requirements. The fuels could be corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel made from soybeans, electricity used by plug-in hybrid vehicles, or perhaps some kind of fuel that hasn't even been developed yet. The only requirement is that the overall mix of fuels sold in the U.S. would have to meet the carbon reduction targets set forth in my proposal."

"This is a new concept - indeed, less than six months have passed since California adopted it -- and I know some of my colleagues are not familiar with how it would work. So, let me address the relationship between the low carbon fuel standard and something we know a lot about -- the Renewable Fuels Standard."

"Under the able leadership of the two senators from New Mexico, the Energy Committee has crafted the underlying bill to require greater volumes of biofuels in our national fuel supply. The bill increases national production goals in the RFS over the next 15 years and establishes the first production targets of next-generation fuels such as cellulosics."

"Under the bill, the RFS target would increase to 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by the year 2022. When combined with the new advanced biofuels requirements in the bill, this would result in an estimated 2 to 6 percent reduction in carbon emissions in our national fuel pool in 15 years. These are significant reductions, but I believe we can do better."

"My low carbon fuel standard would require a 10 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. I know that sounds ambitious, but the magnitude of our nation's problems demands bold and innovative action. Indeed, the experts with whom we have consulted firmly believe that a 10 percent reduction is realistic with greater research into advanced biofuels and new fuel sources. But that research will only happen if businesses are assured of a market for their new products. And just as the existing RFS has spurred the construction of ethanol plants, a low carbon fuel standard would incentivize the development of new advanced fuels."

"We in Congress support biofuels because these fuels strengthen our energy security, support our rural communities, and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. But our current policy doesn't recognize producers when they do a better job of achieving these goals. Our farmers, manufacturers, and investors are ready to produce better biofuels - fuels that are more efficient, fuels that support a broader base of rural communities, fuels that reduce greenhouse gases by 90% or more - but they need a signal that their investment in better performance will be recognized in the marketplace."

"Let me be clear - a low carbon fuel standard is not intended to replace the RFS; instead, the two standards would complement each other by encouraging greater use of renewable fuels. But here's an important difference between the two standards: the RFS evaluates renewable fuel based on the feedstock that creates the fuel, while the low carbon fuel standard looks at the carbon emissions produced by the fuel. And that's an important distinction as we wrestle with perhaps the greatest challenge of our generation - climate change."

"Going forward, it's not enough just to say that a fuel uses home-grown products like corn or soybeans. We also need to look at what effect the fuel has on carbon emissions. My proposal does that, and in doing so, offers something for everyone."

"If you support rural America, this approach ensures widespread development and use of biofuels from agriculture products."

"If you support energy security, this approach reduces our consumption of oil by 30 billion gallons by 2020 - 60% of which would have to be imported from foreign sources."

"If you support certainty for industry, this approach provides the market certainty that is critical for investment dollars in key technologies."

"And most importantly, if you support the environment, this approach reduces carbon emissions by 180 metric tons by 2020 and ensures that any future billon dollar capital investment in a fuel plant would have to produce a fuel with better lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than conventional gasoline. Because under a low carbon fuel standard, there would be no place for carbon-intensive fuels."

"The energy debate this week underscores the fact that, as we pursue the best course of action for our energy independence, there are no perfect answers. There is no single fuel or feedstock that offers the best combination of affordability, reliability, transportability, and sensitivity to the environment. - and even if there were, I'm not sure we here in this chamber would be the most qualified to identify it."

"But, our current course - that is, maintaining our dependency on unstable regions of the world for the fuel that we cannot live without - is far too great a risk to delay action. That requires us to take aggressive action that will set the stage for the second and third generation of fuels that will truly help us achieve energy independence and fight global warming. A low carbon fuel standard accomplishes these goals."

"Finally, let me say a word to my colleagues about climate change. Now I know that when it comes to the word "carbon," the range of views among my colleagues is varied and complex. I am among those Senators who believe carbon from human activities contributes to climate change, that it is an immediate threat, and that we must immediately require emission reductions through a strong cap and trade system. Others among my colleagues agree with some type of a carbon-controlled economy, but disagree with the various legislative approaches to date. Still others believe the climate is in no imminent danger."

"My proposal addresses carbon, but it allows my colleagues to maintain their differences on the larger debate on climate change while coming together to achieve progress on all of our multiple policy goals - whether it's ending our energy dependence, attacking the problem of climate change, promoting economic stability, or creating American jobs."

"I am fully aware that this proposal may be ahead of its time, but given the magnitude of our problems, we can't afford to be too cautious in our policy solutions. I urge my colleagues to learn more about a low carbon fuel standard, and if they do so, I know they will see the merits of it."

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