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Leading Scientists Call for National Academy Review of Controversial Provision in the CA Low Carbon Fuel Standard


Say Recent Public Comments From Other Leading Universities Underscore Need to Slow Down and Get The Science Right

LIVERMORE, Calif., April 20 /PRNewswire/ -- In a letter submitted to California Air Resources Board (CARB) Chair Mary Nichols on Monday, several leading scientists warned CARB about the premature and erroneous inclusion of indirect carbon effects in the proposed LCFS, and called for an independent third party review of the issue. The scientists, who also submitted a letter in March signed by 111 scientific colleagues, said that ARB staff has not addressed their concerns and more time is necessary to get the science right.

“This is a precedent setting regulation that could be an international model for regulating carbon in the transportation fuel sector. The current proposal includes carbon penalties based on ungrounded and selectively enforced science, which could set us back years in the effort to commercialize low carbon fuels,” said Dr. Blake Simmons, a researcher at Sandia National Laboratory. Simmons believes that the National Academy is the appropriate institution to help resolve the brewing controversy over indirect effects.

The letter, dated April 20, states that “[t]he issue of how to deal with indirect effects ... is increasingly controversial from a scientific perspective. We are concerned that unresolved issues related to indirect effects enforcement are needlessly eroding support for an otherwise critical fuel policy. We are therefore requesting that CARB immediately enact an LCFS based on direct carbon effects while establishing an expeditious process to assess and account for indirect effects across all fuel pathways, including petroleum.” The letters says the assessment could be done in 18-24 months, before the LCFS compliance schedule begins to require the use of low carbon fuels.

“We’re basically talking about increasing the carbon score of some alternative fuels by 40-200% based on dubious economic modeling that is nowhere near ready for prime time, and then to add insult to injury they are not doing the same economic analysis on other eligible fuels in the program or petroleum,” added Simmons. “This is indefensible from either a scientific or public policy perspective and will ultimately fail.”

Although not the subject of the letter, Dr. Simmons pointed to other comments made by other leading researchers in the field. “After reading the independent comments of several other researchers in the field, it is more clear than ever that the enforcement of indirect effects at this time is not scientifically sound.”

Several scathing assessments of the proposed standard have been posted on the CARB website in recent days. Dr. Monty Kerley of the University of Missouri states, “[t]he report reads as fiction supportive of a desired outcome but not as factual information useful for establishment of policy.” Dr. Hans Stein of the University of Illinois states, “The Appendix is filled with factual errors that make one question all the conclusions that are reached. The report prepared by staff is poorly completed and the conclusions that are reached are not supported by data from the scientific literature. The work is based on very few references and at least one reference listed is incorrect or falsified.” A letter authored by Justin Sexten of the University of Missouri Extension states, “The [CARB co-product analysis] ignores current data, presents a biased view, and failed to utilize appropriate scientific justification ... [d]evelopment of public policy using inaccurate and incomplete information will result in detrimental environmental effects in direct contrast to the goals of the CA LCFS.”

Dr. Simmons and his co-signers continue to call for what they call “a simple solution to a complicated problem.” They say that Governor Schwarzenegger and the Air Board can adopt an LCFS regulation based on direct, “cradle to grave” carbon effects as planned this week. This will establish a level playing field for all fuels, advantage the lowest carbon fuels, and serve as the foundation of a rapidly evolving policy, they say. The regulation would then include a “placeholder” for indirect effects, including a schedule for completing the assessment if indirect effects for all fuels. CARB and the National Academy would then take the time necessary to better understand indirect effects.

“The impulse to race ahead on indirect effects is not good for the policy or the environment,” concluded Simmons. A full version of the letter can be downloaded here:

Links to other reviews cited in this press release are:

SOURCE Dr. Blake A. Simmons

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