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Clinton Wants to Fix the RFS

08.03.16 | Blog | By:

What’s the alternative the campaign has in mind to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS)?  Reuters reported that it was the California’s Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS), which was readopted and extended to 2030 last year. The Clinton campaign has had discussions with California Air Resources Board (CARB) chairman Mary Nichols, a critic of the RFS program. According to the Reuters report, Nichols advised the consideration of other pathways that would not result in “political backlash” including initiatives to expand electric vehicle sales (like its Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program?).

POLITICO later confirmed that the campaign has no interest in repealing the RFS. The story noted that, “if she wins, Clinton may face pressure to reform the [RFS] program from Republicans in Congress distrustful of the EPA, environmentalists who want a more explicitly climate-fighting program (like the LCFS), and members of the oil industry who would just like to sell more gasoline.”

The RFS program has been “broken” for years now with little to no appetite to fix it. So there’s two things to take note of here: (1) the campaign has expressed a willingness to do what Presidents Bush and Obama and their administrations have not done and that’s fix the RFS. And (2): despite the denials, a national LCFS could be in the not-too-distant future. If Clinton is looking for a “signature” climate-transport initiative in a new administration, this could be it.

But Nichols is right: it would be a battle, particularly with the refining and first-generation ethanol industries, while next-generation producers, environmental groups, companies with major trucking fleets (e.g. UPS) and others would likely line up in support. On the other hand, since when did Clinton back down from a battle?

Meantime, in California, the legislature has been considering legislation that would extend the state’s cap and trade program to 2030 while the original cap-and-trade program is being challenged in court. Governor Jerry Brown has been negotiating with the oil industry to preserve the program while extending it to 2030, freeing it from legal challenges, and has contemplated putting the measure on the ballot in 2018. Avoiding this and getting a deal done could mean “compris[ing] on the LCFS to get the oil industry’s support.” That may not bode well for a national program.

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