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Low carbon fuel is good for health and jobs in California

California Air Resources Board chairman Mary Nichols discusses the low-carbon fuel standard in 2009.
California Air Resources Board chairman Mary Nichols discusses the low-carbon fuel standard in 2009. AP file

Jaxin Woodward of Vacaville loves running track and field and cross country, but pollution from cars and trucks can trigger vicious asthma attacks, making it challenging for her to compete. She is one of millions of Californians who benefit every day from the state’s leading policies to clean up vehicles and fuels, including the low carbon fuel standard.

On Friday, the California Air Resources Board will consider a proposal to strengthen and extend the standard beyond its current 2020 deadline to 2030. This policy is often overlooked but is critically important in reducing pollution and slowing climate change.

Will Barrett Headshot.jpg
Will Barrett

It requires fuel companies to produce cleaner transportation fuels, paving the way toward zero-emission vehicles. While we fight to maintain California's strong clean vehicle standards, which are under attack in Washington, D.C., we also need the low carbon fuel standard to reduce emissions.

Also, the public health benefits of cleaner cars and fuels are immense, helping to prevent thousands of respiratory illnesses and asthma-related issues. Transportation pollution is well understood as a threat to children, seniors, expectant moms and anyone living with respiratory disease. As public health advocates, we are always focused on saving Californians' lives and preventing lung disease.

More often than not, the most impoverished California communities are also among the most polluted. That's why policymakers are focused on ensuring that low-income communities receive significant benefits from California’s clean fuel and vehicle policies – as much as $1,530 a year in fuel savings by 2030. While everyone will pocket some extra money, the savings represent a higher percentage of income for poor families.

Opinion

If the Air Resources Board needs more reasons to continue and strengthen the fuel standard, independent research shows that there are enough supplies of clean fuels to reduce the carbon intensity of our fuels beyond the proposed 20 percent. Raising the bar to 22 percent is one of the most important signals the state can send to the oil industry to invest in carbon-reducing technologies rather than spending millions on lobbying to stall clean air policies.

Since its inception in 2011, the fuel standard has spurred an estimated $2 billion in investments, driving innovation and creating good jobs. Imagine what a stronger standard could do to build on this progress.

California asks fuel producers to innovate to address climate change, build our clean energy economy, clean the air, offer more choices to consumers and save families money. We believe this is a fair price to pay so all Californians can breathe cleaner air.

Will Barrett is senior policy analyst with the American Lung Association in California. He can be contacted at William.Barrett@lung.org.

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