California Adopts Low-Carbon Fuel Standard

Some good news in the fight against climate change.

Good. The California Air Resources Board has adopted the nation’s first mandate to lower the carbon in fuel. As these things go, it’s pretty mild: a 10% reduction in carbon footprint by 2020.

That hasn’t stopped the oil industry from complaining, of course, stating that CARB is “moving too fast.” When will it not be moving too fast? When the Gulf Coast is underwater?

I expect that there will be lawsuits, but at first blush, pre-emption does not seem to be a problem: the Clean Air Act does forbid states from enacting more stringent fuel standards than the federal government, but section 211(c)(1)(B) specifically exempts California from this provision, for the sensible reason that California can create its own auto standards.

Right now, I’m just waiting for Dick Cheney to claim that secret documents demonstrate that high-carbon fuel helps prevent terror attacks.

UPDATE: A reader wonders this is really such a good thing, because as Mike O’Hare has pointed out, ethanol may actually emit more carbon due to deforestation. My response was that if that is actually the case, then ethanol wouldn’t count as a low-carbon fuel. That is my reading of the official CARB statement. If CARB has actually allowed greater emissions through this, then it would be one of the great policy deceptions of our time. But I suspect that the CARB folks are smarter than that.

UPDATE 2 (from MO’H): Yes, they are. More here.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.