Tesoro Sues Air Board on Greenhouse Gases from Gasoline Rule

By Published On: October 3, 2008

An oil refiner’s challenge to state fuel standards may influence the debate over whether California should pursue ethanol or electricity to curb greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. San Antonio-based Tesoro asked a state judge September 30 to suspend California Air Resources Board standards it claims will result in more greenhouse gas emissions. The rule allows the percentage of ethanol mixed into gasoline to climb from 5.7 to 10 percent at the end of next year. When the Air Board adopted the regulation in 2007, then chair Robert Sawyer promised that “greater use of ethanol” would “reduce global warming emissions.” However, a subsequent analysis by University of California researchers called that statement into question. It found that increased use of ethanol may be fueling increased carbon emissions as farmers clear land to plant replacement food crops for the corn being turned into ethanol. Clearing the land releases carbon dioxide. The study’s implications were that the Air Board might need to look to other types of fuels, including powering vehicles with electricity, to cut carbon emissions attributable to transportation fuel. Tesoro chair Bruce Smith said that the 2007 change in the state’s gasoline formula standards–under modifications to the Air Board’s arcane “predictive model”–“violates the intent established by another California regulation (AB 32, the state’s climate change law), which calls for a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. “The new rule increases greenhouse gases–through the addition of more crop-based ethanol–at the same time we are investing to reduce greenhouse gases.” Tesoro–which operates refineries in Martinez and Los Angeles–filed the suit against the Air Board in Sacramento Superior Court. “We’re still just looking at it,” said Air Board spokesperson Dimitri Stanich of the suit. “We’re hoping to come to some understanding.” Editor’s Note: For a more detailed report, please see our sister publication, Energy Meets Climate Challenge, E=MC2. It can be found at www.energymeetsclimate.com

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