The Current — and Future — State of Clean Air Regulations
Discussion of low-carbon policies often centers around California because it has what many people consider one of the world’s foremost clean air programs. However, these types of policies are present all across North America. From coast to coast, Puerto Rico to Canada, climate policies are in effect or under debate — and interest is only growing.
Because transportation is one of the two highest-emitting sectors of the U.S. economy (the other is power), it’s important for fleets, fuel marketers, policymakers and even individual drivers to be aware of the trend.
At least 16 U.S. states plus Puerto Rico have enacted legislation around greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions, and some other states are requiring agencies to report on their emissions. Additionally, some states have committed to GHG reduction goals through executive action but don’t yet have binding statutory targets.
In the Western region, California, Oregon and the Canadian province of British Columbia have low-carbon fuel standards that require reductions in GHG emissions and promote the use of clean fuels. Less well known is that Colorado, Hawaii and Nevada also have statutory targets for reducing GHG emissions and reporting emissions.
In the Northeast region, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont have statutory targets for reducing GHG emissions. New York is also aiming for net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.
Also in the Northeast, several states and municipalities have laws requiring that heating oil — a fossil fuel used to heat buildings — be blended with biodiesel to reduce air pollution.
In the heartland, Minnesota is targeting an emissions reduction of 80 percent from 2005 to 2050.
Puerto Rico’s target is to reduce GHG emissions by 50 percent from 2020 to 2025, with a 100 percent renewable energy goal for 2041.
Change is happening at the local level as well. New York City and three bordering counties require a 10 percent biodiesel blend for heating oil by 2025. In our hometown of Ames, Iowa, the city fleet is running several maintenance vehicles on 100% biodiesel to reduce emissions.
This is not a comprehensive list of regulations, but it shows that these types of policies are not limited to the West Coast.
What else is on the way?
Washington state has debated a clean fuel standard in recent years. And Colorado’s governor has begun feasibility studies for a similar standard.
Several other states, counties and cities are in the process of exploring clean air regulations and goals as well.
What government officials are saying
Here at Chevron Renewable Energy Group, our government affairs team talks to elected officials and staff frequently, answering questions about how clean fuel policies would affect the price of gasoline and diesel, whether biofuels work in all vehicles (especially older ones), and whether biofuels will create jobs. Will the policies hurt low-income people? What are the health benefits? Will biofuels really do anything to fight climate change?
We are proud to be able to discuss biodiesel as a positive solution to all of these concerns. Biodiesel blends are an affordable and effective way to reduce GHG emissions. Waiting for electric vehicles to be widely available and practical is not an option if we want to reduce emissions now. As a drop-in solution, biodiesel is one of the best ways to meet these standards and goals quickly.
We also advise them it takes a good amount of work to enact a clean fuel standard. But we believe it’s worth it — as are many others types of policies that promote sustainability, and we know they will only become more prevalent in the coming months and years. If you’re in the transportation or fuel industries, contact us at [email protected] to see how you can be prepared.
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