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No.25 Everybody’s Going Low-Carb

September 16, 2009
by Kiki Namikas
Daniel Sperling and Alex Farrell

Low-carbon fuel standard

The big idea: The term “low-carb” took on new meaning when California adopted the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), the world’s first greenhouse gas standard for transportation fuels.

In a state where transportation accounts for 41 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (compared to a national average of 32 percent), the commitment to reduce carbon intensity of fuels by 10 percent by 2020 is significant—and inspiring.

“We’re definitely affecting the rest of the world in a major way,” says Daniel Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies and professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis. He teamed up with Alex Farrell, director of Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center, to spearhead an interdisciplinary UC research project to develop an effective low-carbon fuel standard.

What’s next: Shortly after the LCFS was enacted last January, the European Union announced a new pollution standard for motor fuels that was virtually identical to California’s. In May, presidential-hopeful Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa proposed a National Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (NCLFS).

“Everyone watches what California does,” Sperling says, “because they know eventually it will probably migrate to their own country and region.”

See more brilliant California ideas »

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