Publication Detail

A Low-Carbon Fuel Standard for California, Part 1: Technical Analysis


Research Report

Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS)

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Suggested Citation:
Farrell, Alexander E. and Daniel Sperling (2007) A Low-Carbon Fuel Standard for California, Part 1: Technical Analysis. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-07-07

Executive Order S-1-07, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) (January 18, 2007), calls for a reduction of at least 10 percent in the carbon intensity of California’s transportation fuels by 2020. It instructed the Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate activities between the University of California and various state agencies to develop and propose a draft compliance schedule to meet the 2020 Target. This report is the first of two by the University of California in response. This first study assesses the low-carbon fuels options that might be used to meet the proposed standard, and presents a number of scenarios for mixes of fuels that might meet a 5, 10, and 15 percent standard. The second part of the study, to be released one month later, will examine key policy issues associated with the LCFS.

On the basis of a study of a wide range of vehicle fuel options, we find a 10 percent reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 2020 attainable, but an ambitious target. With some vehicle and fuel combinations, a reduction of 15 percent may be possible. All of the technical options to reduce GHG emissions from the transportation sector (e.g. biofuel production and electric vehicles) have technical and economic uncertainties that need further evaluation and research, but there are many different options, of which many show great potential to lower the global warming impact of transportation fuels. Many research and development efforts are already underway now to bring these advanced technologies to market. This diversity of low-carbon fuel and vehicle options leads to a simple conclusion that the California Air Resources Board should include the LCFS as an early action measure under AB 32 (Núñez/Pavley), the Global Warming Solutions Act.

The draft report was produced by the University of California for the State in response to Executive Order S-1-07, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.