The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has approved changes to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) designed to make the program a more versatile, comprehensive tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). 

The standard currently requires a 10% reduction in the “carbon intensity” of California’s transportation fuels by 2020. Carbon intensity is determined by the amount of carbon emitted throughout a fuel’s entire life cycle, from extraction or production to combustion.

The amendments approved by the Board require a 20% reduction in carbon intensity by 2030. The new requirement was designed to align with California’s overall 2030 target of reducing climate changing emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, which was set by Senate Bill 32 and signed by Governor Brown in 2016. 

“These amendments will take California’s climate fight up another notch,” said Board Chair Mary D. Nichols. “The addition of credits for alternative aviation fuels makes the program more flexible and adds a major source of potential greenhouse gas reductions. Using some of the credits to give a new car buyer a break on electric transportation will provide a clear incentive for zero emission vehicle sales and infrastructure, as requested by the legislature and Governor Brown.”

The amendments are expected to be an incentive for the development of additional zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and the sale of electric and hydrogen vehicles by allowing utilities to collect LCFS credits through charging stations and hydrogen refueling facilities. 

The LCFS program is implemented using a system of tradeable credits, each of which is equivalent to one metric ton of carbon. Credits are generated by producers of cleaner fuels and can be sold to producers whose product will not meet the program’s declining benchmark for carbon intensity. 

In the case of utilities, credits are generated based on the expected capacity of fast charging and refueling stations for zero-emission vehicles. Part of the proceeds from sale of those utility credits will be used to increase the rebates from utilities to drivers purchasing electric vehicles. 

The amendments also restructure the various utility vehicle rebate programs into a single pool so application and payment processes are uniform regardless of which utility is involved, and so the rebates can be made available through small utilities as well as large ones.

The amendments take effect on January 1, 2019.