Oregon, My Oregon : Leading the Way on Reducing Oil Use Through a Clean Fuels Program

September 7, 2012 | 3:33 pm
Jeremy Martin
Senior Scientist and Director of Fuels Policy

Hats off to Oregon – the land of locally sourced chicken, a frightening number of ghost towns, and now – a model low carbon fuel program.

Getting their ducks in a row

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is poised to adopt the Oregon Clean Fuels Program (CFP), a program that will require fuel suppliers to gradually lower greenhouse gas emissions of transportation fuels 10 percent over a 10 year period.   The CFP is part of Oregon’s goal to reduce greenhouse gasses 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and is a start toward reaching the state’s 2050 goal of reducing emissions 75 percent below 1990 levels.  These targets are consistent with the reductions recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and will ultimately help reduce the consequences of climate change such as sea level rise, extreme weather, and droughts.

Trailblazing the path to reduced oil use

Oregon and the fellow transportation-conscious state of California, are leading the way on promoting the necessary shift in our transportation system away from oil.  Reducing oil use through the use of clean alternative fuels is a large part of the Union of Concerned Scientists plan to reduce oil use in half within 20 years.  For example, according to UCS analysis, a commercial cellulosic biofuel industry can cut U.S. oil use nearly 1.5 million barrels each day by 2035. An increased use of hybrids and electric vehicles can cut it by an additional 1.5 million barrels. The CFP, working in concert with other policies such as the recently finalized national fuel economy standards, will help us meet this ambitious goal.

Fueling local economies

Policies like the Oregon Clean Fuel Program and the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard compliment the federal Renewable Fuel Standard and collectively expand markets for clean fuels.  Expanded markets for clean fuels will spur further investment in the commercialization of better biofuels.  Accelerated commercialization means we will reap the economic rewards of a clean fuels industry sooner as well.  Jack Faucett Associates’ economic analysis found that the CFP will increase Oregon’s economic activity by at least $70 million in Gross State Product over ten years.  The analysis also projected an increase of as many as 29,000 Oregon jobs by keeping the billions spent on fuel at least partially in state.

The oil industry is always trying to persuade us that oil is the only future we need, and it is tempting to just sit back and watch another episode of Battlestar Galactica, but as I recall there were a few good reasons to cut our oil use in half: it’s the right thing to do for our economy, our environment, and our security.  With continued leadership from states like Oregon and California, and regional collaborations in the Northeast, we can clean up our fuel supply, address the challenges posed by continued oil use, and position the U.S. as a leader in transportation technology.  That’s a good reason to get off the couch if I ever heard one.

Photo credit: Flickr/dalvenjah