I spent Monday of this week in Spokane getting educated on clean fuels. I listened in on a public hearing that the DOE was holding, and met with business leaders who are at the forefront of clean fuels development.
The topic of a clean fuels standard (CFS) can get pretty wonky, but the basic premise is that providers and importers in Washington State need to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels by 10% over a period of ten years.
Having worked for a company that regularly set stretch targets on carbon reduction this target seems remarkably unambitious, but then I suppose it all depends on your perspective. If your main product is oil, then the CFS represents a threat, albeit small, to business as usual because it catalyzes and supports investment in and production of a diverse range of clean, home grown fuels, That's good for the economy of the state, which currently spends $14bn on imported oil and it also helps us bring down greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector which accounts for 47% of our footprint.
So what types of clean fuels are we talking about? This is the side that fascinates me because it's all about innovation. Pacific Coast Canola, located in Warden, Washington, operates the largest expeller pressed canola processing plant in North America. They provide raw material to Imperium Renewables, based in Grey's Harbor that has the nation's largest biodiesel plant. Both companies are committed to sourcing locally and helping to build an entirely new industry, with good jobs.
Tim Foster, CEO of Patriotic Motors is converting gas powered vehicles to electric. Somewhere in La Jolla, CA there is a Porsche Boxster he converted that can do 0-60 in 2.3 seconds. Personally I'm happy to stick with my electric Smart, but even that has great acceleration.
As Mr McGuire says to Ben in my favorite movie The Graduate, "I've got one word for you," only it's not plastics, it's algae. This technology has massive potential because it's very cost competitive and uses much less land than other crop based bio fuels, and it sequesters CO2. Algenol’s patented technology enables the production of ethanol, gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel for around $1.30 per gallon each using proprietary algae, sunlight, carbon dioxide (often from utilities) and saltwater. It can reduce fuel intensity by 68%.
Alex Levy of Imperium Renewables stated at the public hearing that they are operating reduced production capacity because there is no CFS in place in Washington. The CFS will help all these companies get the long term certainty that they need for their significant investments, it will give consumers choices they have never had before, and it will help clean our air. It's working in California, and it can work here.