Opinion Columns & Blogs

Washington needs clean fuel standard and transportation package

The Washington state Department of Ecology recently released a draft clean fuel standard. This rule would require oil refineries and fuel distributors to ensure that our fuel supply gets cleaner over time, with a 10-percent reduction in carbon pollution from gasoline and diesel over the next decade.

This could create thousands of new jobs. It would lower vehicle emissions responsible for half of Washington’s carbon pollution. And the standard would lead to less reliance on foreign oil and more reliance on homegrown, renewable resources like advanced biofuel and even wind energy which can help power electric vehicles.

Unfortunately, legislators have taken the standard hostage. Backed by powerful lobbyists, the Senate’s version of the state transportation package would defund transit and other essential infrastructure projects if the standard is established.

This provision is intended to stop Gov. Jay Inslee and Ecology from proceeding with clean fuel standard rule making.

Washington needs both a transportation package and clean fuels – we shouldn't have to choose. But instead of moving forward with smart policies that are good for our economy and good for our environment, we’re stuck in neutral.

Adopting a clean fuel standard sends a strong, clear market signal to the private sector that increases clean fuel investments, stimulates innovation, and creates jobs.

According to Environmental Entrepreneurs, nearly 800 million gallons of advanced biofuel were produced in the U.S. in 2014. That’s roughly enough to fill an entire lane of Interstate 5 from Seattle to San Diego with nothing but large tanker trucks.

Businesses fueling this growth are working hard here in Washington. For example, Promus Energy is developing projects in the Yakima Valley that will convert manure from thousands of cows and other farm waste into enough energy to power nearly 700 delivery trucks every day.

In Grays Harbor, Imperium Renewables is the largest producer of biodiesel on the West Coast, with 100 million gallons of annual production capacity. Imperium created 350 construction and related jobs when it built its facility in 2007.

Other states have already implemented similar policies. In California, where a clean fuels standard similar to the one under consideration in Washington has been in place since 2011, researchers found the cost to fuel suppliers to meet the standard is negligible – a third of a penny per gallon. With profit margins at Washington’s oil refineries already some of the highest in the nation, adding one-third of one cent per gallon would not lead to significantly higher costs.

We need more jobs, more innovation, more in-state investment, more choices at the pump, and more homegrown fuel.

That’s why our legislators must pave the way for clean fuel standard adoption now by removing the harmful provision in the transportation package.

Rebecca Deehr is the Pacific Northwest advocate for Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). Graham Noyes is the executive director of the Low Carbon Fuels Coalition.