Clean Fuels: Fact vs. Myth

What the Clean Fuels Program does: Guarantees climate pollution reductions from transportation fuels by 10% over 10 years.

How it works: Oil importers (all petroleum comes from outside of Oregon) must reduce their carbon footprint by investing in lower carbon fuels. All fuels are judged on their lifecycle climate impact. The cleanest fuels, such as waste grease biodiesel or biogas collected from landfills, are encouraged the most. Higher carbon fuels, like natural gas, may have a niche role to play, but won’t be the dominant fuel. Oil companies also have to report on their carbon intensities and account for any increases in pollution if they import even dirtier fuels, like tar sands.

Oil companies generate “deficits” for their carbon pollution. All clean fuels (biofuels, biogas, natural gas, electricity, propane, hydrogen, renewable diesel, or whatever other innovative fuel is developed) generate “credits.” Credits are proof of pollution reduction and are generated based on the extent of that reduction – the lower the carbon, the more credits can be generated.


FACT: Many clean fuels are cheaper than gasoline and diesel.

Electricity costs the equivalent of $1 per gallon for EVs. And natural gas, propane and ethanol are consistently cheaper than gasoline.

FACT: The Clean Fuels Program rewards the lowest-carbon fuels.
All fuels are judged on their lifetime climate impact using rigorous science that is updated regularly. For example, advanced biofuels made from perennial grasses and agriculture residues (think wheat straw instead of wheat grain) has a far lower carbon footprint than conventional ethanol made from corn. Similarly, biogas is much lower than natural gas. And existing programs have encouraged conventional biofuels to improve their carbon footprint.

FACT: The supply of clean fuels will be more than adequate.

Electricity is already abundant and Oregon has one of the most robust recharging networks in the U.S. California’s program is being exceeded every year and has already increased the use of biogas for transportation more than four-fold. A 2014 Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) report estimates that the U.S. will have the capacity to produce more than 1.4 billion gallons of advanced biofuels by 2016, compared to 437 million gallons in 2011. Continued growth in the industry will easily supply the advanced biofuels needed here in Oregon and the entire region.

FACT: Taxpayers won’t have to pay for emissions reductions.
The Clean Fuels Program costs the state virtually nothing. The burden of responsibility for reducing pollution is placed on the oil industry.

FACT: Oregonians have spoken: We don’t have to choose between clean air and good roads.
Governor Brown said in June 25 statement that the Clean Fuels Program and a transportation package should be decoupled and considered separately.

UPDATE: We won! The clean fuels program passed – read about the victory here.

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2 Replies to "Clean Fuels: Fact vs. Myth"

  • Vernon Huffer
    June 26, 2015 (4:43 am)

    No mention that almost all the ethanol if distilled from corn grown in the Midwest and transported by rail or road. Most studies show it increases carbon emissions. it is immoral to burn food to power transportation. It seems that the Big Corn lobby influenced people who did not even study chemistry in high school. Too nasty maybe?

    Quite a bit of our electricity comes from coal. Why do you not take on Big Coal?

    • Simon Tam
      June 26, 2015 (5:41 am)

      Hi Vern,

      Carbon intensity is measured by lifecycle emissions (often known as “well-to-wheels”). In other words, it isn’t simply calculated as MPG, but the entire lifecycle, including the production and transportation of said fuel. That’s why it states in the post that the Clean Fuels Program rewards the lowest-carbon fuels. Cellulosic fuels are actually being produced now, including in Kansas, using ag residues that aren’t competing with food production. For more information on the state of advanced biofuels, check out this report by Environmental Entrepreneurs:

      Same thing for electricity, it’s well-to-wheels measurement, so more sustainable options are more rewarded. Residential solar systems are becoming increasingly available for EV drivers and programs like EV4Oregon are also starting to deploy solar-powered charging stations.

      Also, Oregon Environmental Council does work on coal. We were a part of the Coal to Clean movement in several bills (SB 477, HB 2729), supported solar power initiatives (HB 2632, HB 2745, HB 2941, HB 2447), incentivizing energy efficiency home improvements (HB 3246), and many other bills. So Big Coal has been tackled from numerous pieces of legislation. For more information on that, you can see our carbon busting legislative agenda: