Strengthening clean fuels and expanding transportation electrification in Oregon

Oregon moves forward with its effort to expand its Clean Fuels Program credits, advance emissions-free transportation electrification

Oregon is building on its strong leadership to reduce climate pollution from transportation fuels, as part of its work to implement the Oregon Climate Action Plan (OCAP)–Gov. Kate Brown’s March 2020 executive order on the climate crisis.

One of the OCAP directives that we at OEC are most excited about is extending and strengthening Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program. Since 2016, the Clean Fuels Program has been creating jobs and working to lower pollution from fuels by making cleaner options available. In its first four years, the program has cut four million metric tons of climate pollution from our air. At the same time, the Clean Fuels program has helped get the first electric school buses on Oregon roads and installed electric charging in underserved areas like small towns and East Portland, creating important economic development opportunities for communities across the state. 

OCAP expands on these successes by setting a bold new goal to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels 25% by 2035, making it the strongest standard in the nation. Reducing the carbon intensity of fuels through the next decade means that Oregonians can look forward to cleaner air, new job opportunities and more climate-friendly transportation options in the years to come.

So how exactly does the Clean Fuels Program work?

The Clean Fuels Program takes a holistic, “well-to-wheels,” approach to evaluate how much climate pollution transportation fuels emit. This “carbon intensity” is measured for each type of fuel, taking into account all of the pollution associated with the fuel throughout its lifecycle — from extraction, transportation, processing, and final use. The program then requires a reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels to meet a declining target. Fuels that are cleaner than the target generate credits for every ton of climate pollution reduced, while more polluting fuels generate deficits for every ton of pollution they emit above the standard.

For comparison, the average carbon score for electricity is about 33, while gasoline is a whopping 100. A utility company that supplies electricity for electric vehicles can then earn credits, which can be sold and the  proceeds used to reinvest in charging stations and other transportation electrification opportunities. For example, the Clean Fuels Program has funded grants for Meals on Wheels to get electric delivery trucks, which not only reduce pollution, but also cut fuel costs allowing more dollars to flow to serving low-income seniors.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is conducting two separate rulemakings as part of its work to implement OCAP’s Clean Fuels Program directives. The first will aim to advance transportation electrification in Oregon through increased generation of Clean Fuels credits by utilities; the second will focus on meeting the new goal of decarbonizing all fuels on Oregon’s roads by 25% by 2035. 

DEQ kicks off the first of its rulemakings this month, where it will examine how to amplify the role of transportation electrification in the program. Doing so will create triple wins for Oregonians: electricity as a fuel will get increasingly low-carbon, all-electric vehicles emit zero tailpipe pollution, and electricity is lower-cost and more price-stable than petroleum. . This process will involve identifying new electric vehicle technologies, like electric waste haulers, that can be added to the Clean Fuels Program, as well updating how the use of renewable energy can better be recognized in utility carbon scores. . Accelerating the generation of credits means more opportunities for utilities to invest in transportation electrification around the state and will help the state reach the goal of ensuring that at least 250,000 registered motor vehicles in Oregon are zero-emission by 2025, and that at least 50% of the new motor vehicles sold annually in the state are zero-emission vehicles by 2030. 

OEC and our partners will be actively engaging with DEQ’s rulemaking process to create new, equitable transportation electrification investments by spring 2021. That means more positive outcomes for Oregon communities on the horizon, including: 

  • More jobs: Increasing transportation electrification will mean more opportunities for electricians, engineers and others who will support the advancement of clean transportation, building on the 150+ jobs already created by the program. 
  • Better health: Cleaner fuels means better air quality, which translates into real health benefits for communities. Old diesel engines create harmful particulate matter that damage hearts, lungs and brains. Displacing diesel is good for the climate and communities.
  • More options: From more public charging stations for electric vehicles, to increased access to clean transportation, Oregonians will have more options available to them. 

Stay tuned for updates from OEC as this and other OCAP rulemakings progress!

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