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ICCT: available low-carbon fuels can reduce CI of on-road transportation fuels in Pacific Coast region by 14%–21% by 2030

Fuel carbon intensity reduction from 2015-2030 from fuel deployment scenarios for the Pacific Coast region. Source: ICCT. Click to enlarge.

A new study from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and E4tech finds that the targets adopted or proposed by British Columbia, California, Oregon, and Washington to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels can be met with a range of low-carbon fuel options. By 2030, the study concludes, low-carbon fuels could replace more than a quarter of the gasoline and diesel used by vehicles in the Pacific Coast region by 2030, with a reduction in the overall carbon intensity of on-road transportation fuels of 14%–21%.

The conclusions are based on a detailed modeling study of low-carbon fuel technologies and production pathways, estimating the future availability of low carbon fuels given policy incentives to supply them in the Pacific Coast region. The study presents eight scenarios for low-carbon fuel supply, including varying amounts of electricity, hydrogen, ethanol, biodiesel, renewable diesel, next generation cellulosic biofuel, and natural gas. Potential carbon savings were estimated by comparing the expected carbon intensity of these alternative fuels to the carbon intensity of the fossil fuels they replace.

This analysis is novel in its evaluation of fuel availability across the four jurisdictions simultaneously; in its consideration of resource and industry constraints; and in its quantification of fuel carbon intensity according to the adopted fuel policy lifecycle carbon ratings.

Fuel carbon intensity reductions by 2030 from eight alternative fuel deployment scenarios for the Pacific Coast region (British Columbia, California, Oregon, Washington). Source: ICCT. Click to enlarge.

The team also compared the 8 scenarios against an illustrative region-wide composite policy target. Within any of the four individual jurisdictions, lesser or greater emission reductions (e.g., above 10% carbon intensity reduction by 2020) than the aggregated region- wide values that are shown would be possible depending on the varying mix of policy, market, and fiscal incentives that were at play.

The study presents four primary conclusions:

  1. Available low-carbon fuels could grow to replace between 290,000 to 410,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day of petroleum-based fuels in 2030, representing a factor of three increase from today and a quarter of the Pacific Coast region’s road transportation energy demand.

    First-generation biofuels (e.g., sugarcane ethanol); second-generation biofuels; advanced cellulosic and drop-in biofuels; renewable and fossil natural gas; electricity in plug-in electric vehicles; and hydrogen in fuel cell vehicles are viable alternative fuels with the potential for substantially increased deployment in the 2020-2030 timeframe.

  2. Low-carbon fuels can reduce the overall carbon intensity of on-road transportation fuels in the region by 14%–21% (all eight scenarios) by 2030, while accounting for lifecycle carbon emission effects, known resource and supply chain constraints, vehicle technology, and increased travel demand.

    The scenarios analyzed in the report would amount to reducing road transportation’s climate emissions by 43-64 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent reduction per year, by 2030.

  3. The specific fuel policy targets established or proposed by the region’s state and provincial governments for fuel carbon intensity reductions can be met in a variety of ways involving conventional biofuels, electric-drive, natural gas, and advanced cellulosic biofuels.

    Six of the eight scenarios analyzed would be consistent with full compliance with regulatory targets between 2015 and 2020. These scenarios also demonstrate a wide variety of potential fuels that could be used for compliance.

    For example, in 2020, the compliance-consistent scenarios include between 100 and 1,200 million gallons (diesel equivalent) of natural gas; between 600 and 1,200 million gallons of ethanol from sugarcane; between 550,000 and 860,000 plug-in electric vehicles using grid electricity; between 300 and 600 million gallons of renewable diesel; and between 20 and 300 million gallons gasoline equivalent of cellulosic fuel.

  4. Decarbonization goals do not require a dramatic breakthrough in any one particular technology; many different technologies exist and are emerging that can be deployed for similar oil-saving and climate mitigation benefits.

    For example, substantial aggregate fuel carbon intensity reductions could be achieved with many combinations of electric-drive vehicles; renewable and natural gas vehicles; advanced cellulosic biofuels; lower carbon first generation biofuels; and increased supply of renewable diesel. This also suggests that different fuel providers in the jurisdictions could focus more heavily on different alternative fuels and achieve similar climate and petroleum-reduction benefits.

The combination of low-carbon fuel policies in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia makes the Pacific Coast one of the most attractive markets in the world to deploy available and emerging low-carbon fuels. Our study shows that there is a range of options available to decarbonize the region’s transport and to meet policy targets.

—Chris Malins, ICCT’s fuels program lead

Background. California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, British Columbia’s Low Carbon Fuel Requirements, and Oregon and Washington’s proposed Clean Fuel Standards all seek to reduce the carbon intensity of vehicle fuels over time.

California’s and British Columbia’s policies call for a 10% reduction in carbon intensity by 2020, to be accomplished through displacing gasoline and diesel by lower-carbon renewable fuels and shifting the composition of the vehicle fleet toward alternative fuel vehicles.

In October 2013, through the Pacific Coast Collaborative’s Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy, the premier of British Columbia and the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington jointly committed to build an integrated low-carbon fuel market. British Columbia adopted its Low Carbon Fuel Requirement in 2008, and California adopted its Low Carbon Fuel Standard in 2010. Oregon and Washington are both working toward the adoption of Clean Fuels Standards.




No matter what liquid or gas fuel you burn, your biggest problem is the internal combustion engine. It takes far too much fuel to run ICEs because they are 20% efficient at best. You are in effect wasting 80 cents out of every dollar to produce exhaust gasses and heat.

The best answer to solve this problem is to switch to battery storage and electric motors.


This is silly, because the 100% option is already being aimed at the Port of Los Angeles.  All they need is carbon-free electricity and they're good to go.


Good link; thanks.


What is goofy is most of our energy expenditure is involved in heating and cooling our homes... why not focus there more?

Also, when all this Algae and Biomass production goes mainstream I can see ICEs being around for a long while, especially at $1.30-2.50 wholesale prices.

In opperation ICEs may be <20% efficent on average(in usage), but they have potential for around 35% if uitlized effectively...

Mild hybrids, plugin hybrids, hydralic drives, and serial generator systems are all trying to pick up this remaining 40-75% increase in fuel economy. If the engine can start and run only when needed, and only within its 'efficiency island' we could see great improvements still. Though, we are probably going to be limited to around 56mpg with a midsized car.

The other thing that will probably come out of nowhere would be Ethanol based fuel cells... liquid fuel, much better efficiencies than ICEs, and can be made from renewables/waste. If you could have a 5 gallon tank, and almost triple (IIRC) the distance you could travel on a gallon as opposed to ICEs, that would be one of the best alternatives if everything panned out. Especially at around $2 a gallon.

I believe battery based cars have about 25 more years of development before we see them fleet wide, not just in midsized luxury and small cars.


I would like to see PHEV FFVs running 40 MPG on cellulose E85, that would do a lot to clean the air and reduce oil imports. I think cellulose E100 in FCVs is a real possibility, the industry has developed better on board reformers than those available in the 1990s with the Daimler NECAR project.


SJC, PHEVs would electrify 70-90% of miles drivin by consumers if they had > 40miles range. If bio fuels were used we could see a reduction of greater than half of the the net CO2 generated probably.

If H2 and liquid fuel cells catch up we could finally do away with ICE. battery alone will only do so much, I dont think it will do more than midsized suv/car in the near future (25years).


The car I want is a PHEV/FCEV reforming cellulose E100/M100, it would have range and use renewable liquid fuel. It would have enough battery capacity for at least 20 mile local trips and a 10 gallon tank for 400 mile range.


Believe me, if you had a Ford PHEV and real (240 VAC 16 A) charging available wherever you stopped, you'd need very little liquid fuel even today.  The alcohol fuel cell would just be lagniappe.

By a happy accident I discovered that the Ford PHEVs take 16 amps.  Some chargers only deliver 208 VAC split phase, which is 3300-odd watts at 16 amps.  The chargers which are wired to full 240 VAC can deliver more than 3800 watts.  This makes a significant difference in charging time.  I would love to have a line to the engineers at the auto companies to see if their vehicle electronics could take 20 Hz or even pulsating DC rectified from 208 VAC 3φ.  I don't expect them to let me have any such information anytime soon.


You could look into Bosch or Johnson controls... One of those probably made anything you are looking for on a car, or made the sub components of that module.


The specs of anything built for an OEM are probably not published for the public.

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