Adopt low-carbon fuel limits

Following the lead of California and directed by Gov. Jay Inslee, the state Department of Ecology is slowly moving forward with a proposed rule that would require a reduction in the carbon emissions resulting from the fuel used for cars and trucks in the state.

The proposed carbon-fuel standard would require refineries to reduce carbon emissions caused by their fuels to be reduced by 10 percent over 10 years. Refineries could produce cleaner-burning fuels, mix fuels with biodiesel or other alternatives or buy credits from other companies, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The goal, as with the governor’s carbon tax proposal, is to reduce greenhouse gases from the vehicles we drive — which account for about 47 percent of the state’s carbon emissions — with the goal of slowing the march of climate change.

The Ecology Department has scheduled public hearings on the proposed rule this month.

There’s a difference of opinion on what the lower carbon standard would mean at the gas pump. Republicans in the Legislature have objected to the change, saying it would add 20 cents to each gallon of gas. The state Office of Financial Management found that the lower-carbon standard would add 2 cents a gallon in 2020 and increase to 10 cents by 2026.

Ecology’s director, Maia Bellon, also disputes that the cost will be higher than what the OFM cites. And there are provisions in the draft rule that would prevent spikes in fuel costs, she told the AP.

But squabbling over the cost per gallon ignores the bigger picture, as outlined by the Union of Concerned Scientists in its analysis of California’s initiatives to limit carbon through the fuel standard and its own carbon cap-and-trade program. It found that improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency will more than offset the costs to motorists in producing cleaner fuels.

That hasn’t deterred some from attempting to divert attention from the improvements that a new fuel standard could have.

State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale — who we will note accepted $18,650 in contributions from energy companies to defend his seat in November — offered up a package of bills he said would reduce carbon pollution. He’s proposed switching the state ferries from diesel to liquefied natural gas; allowing public utilities to meet some voter-approved alternative energy targets by investing in carbon reductions; and offering tax incentives to build small modular nuclear reactors.

“Instead of arguing about ‘is a low carbon fuel standard a good thing or a bad thing,’ I think we can all agree and say that converting Washington state ferries to liquefied natural gas is going to reduce carbon emissions and increase air quality,” the AP quoted Ericksen as saying.

Let’s set aside the neighborhood nuclear reactor idea as a bit ahead of its time. But the other two proposals are worth considering, and we’re happy to have legislators like Ericksen behind ideas to reduce carbon.

Even so, his proposals are not going to approach what a 10 percent reduction in carbon emissions from vehicles can accomplish in savings for motorists and cleaner air and a slowing of climate change for all.

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