Controlling Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transport Fuels: The Performance and Prospects of California's Low-Carbon Fuel Standard

Controlling Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transport Fuels: The Performance and Prospects of California's Low-Carbon Fuel Standard

Friday, May 22, 2015 - UCLA School of Law


California's Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) is an ambitious, innovative, and controversial policy that aims to control greenhouse gases associated with the full life-cycle of transportation fuels. The full scope of transportation fuels' contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is often overlooked, but must be included if deep economy-wide reductions are to be achieved. UCLA's Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment is convening this workshop-style public conference on the current status and future prospects of the LCFS, in order to inform future LCFS design and implementation and to help stakeholders and others interested in transportation fuel carbon reduction policy to better understand the policy's implications.

Coming after the California Air Resources Board's anticipated re-adoption and revisions of the LCFS that is now in process, the conference will address continuing issues in policy design, interaction with other policies, and potential legal challenges. The day's discussions will aim to look forward, both to continuing challenges in reaching the targeted 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and to how the LCFS can contribute to stricter economy-wide targets being developed for after 2020.

The conference will be organized around three panels:

  • Policy design
  • Interactions with other policies, and potential expansions of the LCFS model to other jurisdictions.
  • Legal issues, including challenges to the LCFS program, and implications of the legal context for policy design and for the program's future

Event Agenda:

Introductory session and background briefing

  • Ted Parson, UCLA School of Law
  • Ryan McCarthy, California Air Resources Board 

Panel 1. Policy Design for Low-Carbon Fuels Innovation

In adopting the LCFS, the Air Resources Board has designed an innovative policy that regulates in new ways. This panel will discuss some of the innovative features in the LCFS, and their implications for the future of transportation fuels. Issues addressed on this panel will include: whether using lifecycle analysis helped LCFS get the policy design and implementation right; how the LCFS addresses variation in petroleum and biofuel feedstock and upstream emissions intensity, and the fairness of its treatment of these issues; whether low-carbon fuels are being developed quickly enough, and whether LCFS will help spur that development; what cost-control mechanisms are incorporated in the LCFS, and how necessary and effective they are likely to be; how the LCFS will affect innovation in fuels and technologies; and what role the LCFS will play in GHG emissions reduction after 2020.

Panel 2. Policy Interactions and Potential Expansion

The LCFS has been developed, and will be implemented, in a context that includes other related policies affecting transportation fuel GHG emissions in California, in other states, and nationally. Moreover, other jurisdictions are considering adopting California's LCFS model. This panel will discuss interactions with other policies and potential expansion of the LCFS. The panelists will discuss issues including how the LCFS will interact with policies such as California's cap-and-trade program and the federal Renewable Fuels Standard; how the LCFS addresses resource-shuffling and other leakage concerns (the risk that LCFS will simply move high-carbon transportation fuels outside California with no net reduction in emissions); what other jurisdictions are doing to regulate transportation fuels, and how will this interact with the LCFS; and the implications of these policy interactions for the future of transportation fuel GHG reduction in California and nationally.

Panel 3. Legal Issues and Their Implications for Policy Design

The LCFS has been controversial because of its impact on transportation fuel industries. As the first major regulatory initiative to adopt systemwide lifecycle analysis of greenhouse gas emissions as the basis for regulatory outcomes, the program has provoked legal challenges from petroleum and biofuels interests. The legal landscape has undoubtedly impacted the design of the LCFS, with implications for its effectiveness and future structure. This panel will address legal issues relating to the adoption and implementation of the LCFS, including the status of legal challenges based on the dormant Commerce Clause and federal preemption; post-2020 authority for future iterations of the LCFS; and the ways in which legal constraints and legal risk-management tactics may interact with policy design in the future.

  • Danny Cullenward, UC Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute
  • Alexandra Klass, University of Minnesota Law School
  • Ellen Peter, California Air Resources Board

Closing Session

  • Dan SperlingInstitute for Transportation Studies, UC Davis
  • Sean Hecht, UCLA School of Law
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