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Judge Blocks Low-Carbon Fuel Rules

A federal judge has blocked California from enforcing regulations on carbon output from vehicle fuels, according to news reports.

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O’Neill said the standards favor biofuels produced in California, in violation of constitutional commerce laws, the Washington Post reported.

The California Air Resources Board said it will ask the judge to stay his ruling, and may appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The regulations kicked in last year and require petroleum refiners, fuel blenders and distributors to limit the carbon intensity of their fuels, bringing 2020 carbon intensity down to a level 10 percent lower than that for gasoline today.

The standards are the first in the U.S. to use a life cycle analysis to calculate the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted throughout fuel’s production and transportation, the New York Times said. The rules included rewards for producers and distributors who emit less, while those who exceed the standard must buy credits.

But the regulations do not specifically require the use of alternative fuels.

CARB said the rules would cut the state’s dependence on petroleum by a fifth. But the Consumer Energy Alliance said the proposed rules would raise business costs in California.

Ethanol producers had also been pushing for the injunction, which threatens to hamper the state’s plans to reduce its GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, according to the New York Times. The standards had been projected to account for 10 percent of that reduction.

Refiners, truckers, The Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, the California Dairy Campaign and the Renewable Fuels Associations had also filed lawsuits against the standard.

Picture credit: Casey Fiesler

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