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Bioenergy > Countries > United States > U.S. states > California

Information about biofuels and bioenergy in the state of California in the United States.










See also United States



  • 7 states fight California rule over ethanol carbon scores 19 March 2012 by Adam Belz for USA TODAY: "A California rule assigning higher carbon scores to fuel produced outside the state has drawn the ire of the ethanol industry and the Midwestern states that produce most of the ethanol in the U.S."
    • "At least seven states — Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota— are opposing California's effort to enforce the mandate, which critics say threatens the renewable fuels business in the nation's grain belt."
    • "In December, a federal judge blocked California's Air Resources Board from enforcing the regulation, which encourages refiners to blend gasoline with ethanol produced in Brazil or California. The California rule considers Midwestern ethanol to have a larger carbon footprint. The judge said the rule unconstitutionally interferes with interstate commerce. California officials are appealing the decision."
    • "The rule hinges on the concept of indirect land use change, Thorne said. The idea is that if farmers in the U.S. sell their grain for ethanol, farmers in other parts of the world must grow more corn for the food supply, pumping more carbon into the atmosphere, he said."
    • "Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, who said the regulation threatens $1.3 billion in annual ethanol sales from his state alone, called the indirect land use change a 'highly controversial and undeveloped theory,' in a brief signed by attorneys general from five other states."[2]
  • Judge blocks California's low-carbon fuel rules, 30 December 2011 by the Los Angeles Times: "A federal judge on Thursday temporarily halted California's ability to enforce rules to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation fuels, effectively taking the regulatory teeth out of the state's year-old program."
    • "U.S. District Judge Lawrence O'Neill issued a preliminary injunction that ruled the California Air Resources Board's low-carbon fuel regulations violated the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause by discriminating against crude oil and biofuels producers located outside California."
    • "The regulations require producers, refiners and importers of gasoline and diesel to reduce the carbon footprint of their fuel by 10% over the next decade, as part of California's landmark global-warming law aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020."
    • "The regulation calculates the life cycle of fuels from their extraction — or cultivation, in the case of biofuels such as corn-based ethanol — to their combustion. For example, the state considers how corn is grown, harvested and converted to ethanol intended for California gas tanks, a life-cycle evaluation called 'seeds to wheels.'..."[3]
  • CARB releases 2011 LCFS review report, 22 December 2011 by Ethanol Producer Magazine: "The California Air Resources Board has completed the first required formal review of the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, a regulatory program that requires stakeholders to reduce the carbon intensity (CI) of fuels sold within its borders each year until reaching a 10 percent reduction by 2020."
    • "The reduction was modest—just .25 percent—and CARB concluded that there has been no change in the state’s air quality since the program was implemented."
    • "At issue for Midwest ethanol producers in particular is the inclusion of indirect land use change (ILUC) in the methodology used by CARB to calculate a fuel’s CI."
    • "In the report, CARB said that while the inclusion of ILUC in its model could make it more difficult to harmonize the LCFS with other regional emissions programs that do not require ILUC calculations, it does not plan to alter its program at this time."
    • "It will also not consider any changes to the CI values on a set schedule, but rather will evaluate new information as it becomes available."[4]
  • Biofuel from West Coat forests would increase carbon emissions, 26 October 2011 by Western Farm Press: "The largest and most comprehensive study yet done on the effect of biofuel production from West Coast forests has concluded that an emphasis on bioenergy would increase carbon dioxide emissions from these forests at least 14 percent, if the efficiency of such operations is optimal."
    • "The study was published in Nature Climate Change, by scientists from the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and other institutions in Germany and France. It was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy."
    • "During the past four years, the study examined 80 forest types in 19 eco-regions in Oregon, Washington and California, ranging from temperate rainforests to semi-arid woodlands."
    • "The study examined thousands of forest plots with detailed data and observations, considering 27 parameters, including the role of forest fire, emissions savings from bioenergy use, wood product substitution, insect infestations, forest thinning, energy and processes needed to produce biofuels, and many others."
    • "Plans for greenhouse gas reduction call for up to 10 percent lower emissions by 2020, and forest-derived fuels are now seen as a carbon-neutral solution to reducing energy emissions, the researchers note. However, this study suggests that increases in harvest volume on the West Coast, for any reason, will instead result in average increases in emissions above current levels."[5]
  • Rethinking Life-Cycle Fuel Regulations, 20 August 2011 by Forbes: "In the most recent issue of Climatic Change, one of the resident geniuses that populate the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, Dr. John DeCicco, argues that attempting to regulate fuels using a lifecycle analysis (LCA)-based approach—as is currently done by California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard—is an exercise in futility for purposes of gaging environmental effectiveness."
    • "Instead, in 'Biofuels and carbon management,' DeCicco proposes a method using annual basis carbon (ABC) accounting to track the stocks and flows of carbon and other relevant greenhouse gases (GHGs) throughout fuel supply chains."
    • "ABC accounting would avoid an automatic credit of biogenic carbon in biofuels, and minimize and accumulation of carbon debt due to indirect land-use change, he says."
    • "Upon reflection, policy is best defined using current-period accounting of carbon stocks and flows, ideally with direct, measurement-based, verifiable tallies of GHG emissions from the production and use of all fuels and feedstocks."[6]
  • U.S. Ethanol Industry to Keep Subsidies Until End of 2011, 1 August 2011 by Bloomberg: "U.S. ethanol subsidies aren’t affected by a congressional agreement to lift the country’s debt limit that may be voted on by both chambers today, according to industry groups."
    • "The 45-cent tax credit for each gallon of the biofuel blended into gasoline and the 54-cent tariff on Brazilian imports, due to expire Dec. 31, will stay in place for now, according to the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy, Washington-based industry trade groups."
    • "Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, forged a July 7 deal with Senators Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, to eliminate the government supports and to include it as part of the deficit- reduction package. The agreement proposed to reduce federal deficit by $1.33 billion and to dedicate $668 million to biofuels and new technologies."
    • "The U.S. is required to use 12.6 billion gallons of ethanol this year and 15 billion gallons by 2015 under an energy law signed in 2007, known as the Renewable Fuels Standard."[7]
  • Senators Reach Deal on Ethanol Subsidy Repeal, Urge Swift Congressional Action for Maximum Benefit, 7 July 2011 by The New York Times: "Bipartisan Senate negotiators today reached a deal to save $1.3 billion through an early repeal of two major ethanol tax benefits, setting what could prove a precedent for more energy-sector tax changes as part of a sprawling deal to raise the nation's debt limit."
    • "The agreement released by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) would end the ethanol blenders' tax credit and the tariff on imported biofuels this month, routing most of the proceeds to deficit reduction while extending tax breaks for infrastructure as well as cellulosic and smaller producers."
    • "But without a House-side buy-in to the deal, its prospects of becoming law -- either as part of a larger measure to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling or as a stand-alone bill -- are slim."
    • "Klobuchar said today that she saw the ethanol accord as a template for a similar tax-benefit compromise with oil and gas companies."
    • "Ethanol interest groups largely hailed the terms of the Senate agreement, which would extend the tax credit for cellulosic production through 2015 with an expansion for algae-based fuels, extend tax incentives for infrastructure through 2014 and extend benefits for smaller ethanol producers through 2012."[8]
  • New Study Assesses Wood For Biofuels, 17 May 2011 by "Today a new study evaluates the promise of wood waste biofuels by reviewing 12 technologies and 36 projects that convert wood to fuels including ethanol, butanol, diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel."
    • "According to Forisk Consulting and the Schiamberg Group, the authors of the 'Transportation Fuels from Wood: Investment and Market Implications of Current Projects and Technologies,' biofuels derived from wood waste will fail to substantively contribute to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) either this year or through 2022."
    • "According to co-author Dr. Bruce Schiamberg of the Schiamberg Group, major technical hurdles will disrupt commercialization for the majority of the technologies."
    • "The study finds an on average 11 year gap between estimated commercialization and actual full-scale production."
    • "The report also looked at the impact of biofuel development on US timber markets and found that they would be minimal with the highest potential for wood waste coming from Alabama, California, Michigan, Mississippi, and Tennessee."[9]
  • Camelina offers hope as California biofuel crop, 11 May 2011 by Western Farm Press: "Camelina, a weed in the mustard and distant relative to canola, may be emerging as the front runner in California agriculture’s continuing search for a biofuel crop."
    • "Steve Sandroni, production and logistics manager for Sustainable Oils, believes camelina may be a better crop fit than grain because it will produce 1,500 to 1,600 pounds of camelina per acre on 4-6 inches of winter rainfall. It would be a challenge to produce wheat or barley on so little rainfall."
    • "One of the issues with biofuel oil crops in California is a lack of commercial oil crushing facilities."
    • "By itself, California uses more gasoline than any country in the world, except the U.S. as a whole. California’s 20 billion-gallon gasoline and diesel habit makes it ground zero for low-carbon and renewable fuel development, since there is a state objective that calls for 20 percent of the fuel for California engines be grown in state by 2020."[10]
  • Feinstein, GOP senator fight subsidies for ethanol, 7 May 2011 by SFGate: "Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn have joined forces with Tea Party activists in an attempt to kill $6 billion a year in ethanol subsidies, taking on the corn lobby and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist."
    • "The fuel has been alternately touted by corn growers as a salvation from U.S. dependence on foreign oil and blamed by environmentalists for contributing to giant algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico and by anti-poverty groups for raising food prices."
    • "'Ethanol is the only industry that benefits from a triple crown of government intervention,' Feinstein said. 'Its use is mandated by law, it is protected by tariffs, and companies are paid by the federal government to use it.'"
    • "The ethanol tax credit is a classic 'tax expenditure,' or spending program disguised as a tax cut. Such tax breaks together cost more than $1 trillion a year. There is wide agreement among budget analysts, including the president's bipartisan deficit commission, that reducing such tax breaks could reduce the deficit and increase the fairness of the tax code."[11]
  • Corn ethanol policy under attack in California, 26 April 2011 by Ethanol Producer Magazine: "Opponents of corn ethanol in California achieved a small victory on April 25 after the state assembly natural resources committee approved a bill that would make corn ethanol ineligible for state funding and would repeal the California Ethanol Producer Incentive Program."
    • "Supporters of the measure claim that ethanol production is to blame for higher corn prices, which in turn directly affects Californians through higher food prices. The state’s poultry, dairy and cattle producers are at the top of the list of the bill’s supporters. Many attended the committee hearing and told legislators that high corn prices are 'killing' their businesses and eliminating support for corn ethanol will help to reduce corn prices."
    • "Three California ethanol producers are currently able to receive assistance through CEPIP—Calgren Renewable Fuels LLC, Pacific Ethanol Inc. and AE Biofuels Inc. Representatives from all three companies were on hand at the hearing to offer their input. Each producer stressed that while they are currently using corn to produce their ethanol, CEPIP requires them to invest in technology to transition to other feedstocks and the state’s low carbon fuel standard further spurs them to produce low-carbon fuels. Corn ethanol is the best option currently available, they said, and provides a bridge toward cellulosic ethanol and other lower-carbon fuels. But if incentives currently in place to support the existing industry are taken away, California’s ethanol plants will undoubtedly close and the state will lose its forward momentum in commercializing those other fuels."[12]
  • Google funds company producing biofuel from grass, 21 March 2011 by the Guardian: "Google has again beefed up its position as one of the world's leading investors in innovative renewable energy technologies, shelling out an undisclosed sum as part of the latest funding round for California-based start-up CoolPlanetBiofuels."
    • "The investment will support CoolPlanetBiofuels efforts to produce a biofuel made from biomass such as grass and wood chips, which the company claims will result in a "negative carbon fuel" that removes carbon from the atmosphere."
    • "According to CoolPlanetBiofuels, its N100 fuel technology utilises a "revolutionary thermal/mechanical processor" to turn non-food crops such as grasses and crop residues to produce gas streams that can then be upgraded using catalytic processes to produce a hydrocarbon fuel suitable for use in conventional vehicles."
    • "Significantly, this turns excess carbon into a high purity solid that can then be buried as a soil enhancer, sequestering the carbon for hundreds of years."[13]
  • Feinstein introduces bill repealing VEETC for corn-based ethanol , 10 March 2011 by Oil Price Information Service: "In a move that she believes would save taxpayers $3 billion in the first six months of implementation, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation on Wednesday that would repeal the 45ct/gal ethanol tax credit for corn-based ethanol and lower the 54ct/gal ethanol import tariff to match the tax credit."
    • "'Ethanol is the only industry that benefits from a triple crown of government intervention: its use is mandated by law, it is protected by tariffs and companies are paid by the federal government to use it,' said Feinstein. 'It's time we end this practice once and for all."
    • "U.S. ethanol advocates have always described the 54ct/gal import tariff as essential to offset the U.S. ethanol tax incentive, otherwise foreign producers could bring in product and take advantage of the same tax incentive as U.S. producers. However, that description no longer jibes, as the tax credit was reduced in the 2008 farm bill from 51cts/gal to 45cts/gal, but the import tariff was kept at the same amount."[14]
  • Inexpensive Biofuels: Isobutanol Made Directly from Cellulose, 7 March 2011 by Science Daily: "Using consolidated bioprocessing, a team led by James Liao of the University of California at Los Angeles for the first time produced isobutanol directly from cellulose."
    • "'Unlike ethanol, isobutanol can be blended at any ratio with gasoline and should eliminate the need for dedicated infrastructure in tanks or vehicles,' said Liao."
    • "Compared to ethanol, higher alcohols such as isobutanol are better candidates for gasoline replacement because they have an energy density, octane value and Reid vapor pressure -- a measurement of volatility -- that is much closer to gasoline, Liao said."
    • "To make the conversion possible, Liao and postdoctoral researcher Wendy Higashide of UCLA and Yongchao Li and Yunfeng Yang of Oak Ridge National Laboratory had to develop a strain of Clostridium cellulolyticum, a native cellulose-degrading microbe, that could synthesize isobutanol directly from cellulose."
    • "'In nature, no microorganisms have been identified that possess all of the characteristics necessary for the ideal consolidated bioprocessing strain, so we knew we had to genetically engineer a strain for this purpose,' Li said."[15]
  • Ethanol Gets Seat on California LCFS Panel, 8 February 2011 by "Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Vice President of Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper has been selected to represent the ethanol industry on the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS) Advisory Panel. "
    • "'California has always been an important market for biofuels like ethanol,' Cooper said. 'The LCFS will have significant implications for the future role of ethanol in the state.'"
    • "Specifically, the topics addressed by the advisory panel will include the program’s progress against LCFS targets, possible adjustments to the compliance schedule, lifecycle assessments, advances in fuels and production technology, fuel and vehicle supply availability, the program’s impact on the state’s fuel supplies, and other issues."[17]
  • Lawsuit: LCFS violates US Constitution, 4 January 2010 by Todd J. Guerrero in Ethanol Producer Magazine: "In a case that will be closely watched throughout the country, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association recently filed suit in federal district court alleging that California’s low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) violates the federal Constitution."
    • "Adopted by the California Air Resources Board in 2009, the LCFS is intended to reduce California greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels used in California by an average of 10 percent by the year 2020. Carbon intensity is a measure of the direct and indirect GHG emissions associated with each step of a fuel’s full life cycle – the 'well-to-wheels' for fossil fuels and 'seed-to-wheels' for biofuels."
    • "For corn ethanol, indirect land use changes are a significant source of additional GHG emissions....Given the LCFS’ requirement of reduced carbon intensity, it’s not difficult to see that corn ethanol will be severely disadvantaged in California."
    • "In its lawsuit, the trade groups assert that the LCFS stands as an obstacle to Congress’ intent in adopting the Environmental Security and Independence Act of 2007," which "exempted existing corn ethanol producers from claiming or demonstrating GHG reductions." The lawsuit also alleges that the LCFS violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which concerns interstate commerce, in particular because it requires calculating land use changes that occur mainly outside the state.[18]
  • Dead Forests to Fuel Vehicles, 15 September 2009 by CleanTechnica: "The University of Georgia Research Foundation has developed an innovative way to turn dead trees into a liquid fuel and has licensed it to Tolero Energy in California. We could be driving on our dead forests as soon as 2010."
    • "Infestations of the mountain pine beetle have devastated forests in the western United States and Canada, killing over 40 million acres of pine trees. As the trees decompose and decay, they release millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, and the devastation has created a significant and dangerous fire hazard in the western forests."[19]
  • Corn Ethanol Industry Attacks California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard, 8 March 2009 by "The California Air Resources Board (CARB) released proposed regulations for a Low Carbon Fuel Standard last week to reduce transportation fuel emissions 10 percent by 2020. By requiring fuel providers to sell cleaner fuels, regulators expect about 20 percent of fuel used in the state will be supplanted with alternatives, such as biofuels, hydrogen and electricity."
    • The "new rules are already facing stiff resistance from the corn ethanol industry, which is urging CARB to reject its staff's recommendations and arguing the new rules unfairly penalize ethanol using unproven science."
    • "At issue is the CARB staff's recommendations to include greenhouse gas emissions from indirect land use change in the calculation of biofuel carbon intensity, even though similar impacts aren't used in the intensity calculations of other fuels."[20]
  • Emeryville Biofuel Institute Dedicated, 2 December 2008, by the San Francisco Chronicle:
    • "The new Emeryville facility, funded for five years with $135 million from the Department of Energy, has recruited renowned scientists, as well as graduate and postdoctoral students, to take on the toughest obstacles in creating new biofuels by using modern genomics and molecular biology, robotics and mass spectrometry, chemistry and materials analysis."
    • Jay Keasling "said the institute's leading scientists consult with representatives of nine companies a couple of times a year about its research. He also plans to bring in entrepreneurs who can help identify positive technology and build the business case for taking a specific technology to market."
    • "Anna Palmisano, associate director of the Department of Energy's Office of Science for Biological and Environmental Research, said the institute in Emeryville is on 'the front lines of the next green revolution.'" [21]
  • Farmers eye oilseed plants for biodiesel, 25 April 2007, by Associated Press, reports that farmers in California are investigating growing crops for biofuel, such as canola "on unproductive land that can't support higher-value produce" or "as a cover crop that might improve soil quality between more profitable plantings of berries or leafy greens."
    • Even if successful, however, the economic benefit may be limited, as the article stated: "A typical biodiesel crop could earn California growers a maximum of $200 an acre each year — far less than their current average annual yield of $2,000 an acre, said Robert Van Buskirk, a scientist with the U.S. Department of Energy."
  • Wastewater Plant Turns Kitchen Grease Into Biogas 21 Nov 2006 from Chevron Energy Solutions and the City of Millbrae, California have completed new facilities at Millbrae's Water Pollution Control Plant that uses inedible kitchen grease from restaurants to naturally produce biogas for generating renewable power and heat to treat the city's wastewater. The grease and other organic matter will produce enough biogas at the plant to generate about 1.7 million kilowatt hours annually, which will meet 80 percent of the plant's power needs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.2 million pounds annually.


Governmental organizations

  • The Bioenergy Interagency Working Group: The Working Group is charged with developing California's Bioenergy Action Plan and is composed of state agencies with important biomass connections.
    • Agencies involved:
      • Air Resources Board
      • California Energy Commission
      • California Environmental Protection Agency
      • California Resources Agency
      • Department of Food and Agriculture
      • Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
      • Department of General Services
      • Integrated Waste Management Board
      • Public Utilities Commission
      • State Water Resources Control Board

Nongovernmental organizations

Research organizations




California policies edit
Executive Order S-01-07 (establishes Low Carbon Fuel Standard)
Executive Order S-06-06: Targets for the Use and Production of Biomass Products
AB32: the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006
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