Last week, the state Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee received an update on the potential for a fuel mandate in Washington State. Officials from the Department of Ecology and the state Office of Financial Management (OFM) appeared before the committee for the update. And, what they had to say raises serious concerns regarding the assumptions being made for the impact of a fuel standard.
OFM’s Jim Cahill testified that consultants determined that there “should be” enough low carbon fuels available to meet fuel mandate standards over time, but that it would depend “particularly on where the market went.” Cahill cites a study conducted by an organization called the International Council on Clean Transportation that claims low carbon fuels can replace over a quarter of the vehicle gas and diesel on the Pacific Coast. Notably, Cahill does not know who exactly the organization is or who paid for the study. Cahill does admit that the study relies on a “long range of assumptions.”
Cahill goes on to inform committee members that the state has an estimated capacity to produce 108 million gallons of biofuels annually, primarily via Imperium Renewables (a renewable energy company based in Seattle). However, it is important to note that the 108 million gallons is a theoretical capacity. The figure does not take into account the availability of fuel crops for biofuels—Cahill does not provide information on how they would ensure the availability or even if companies will actually step up and produce the biofuels.
Ericksen points out the clear problem in Cahill’s assumptions. He states that, on one hand, OFM is projecting Imperium Renewables’ production capacity and, based on those figures, claiming that there “should be” enough biofuels to achieve standards under a fuel mandate. On the other hand, OFM is not projecting the total biofuel capacity or even how they will get enough biofuels.
Cahill’s response is disjointed and fails to clarify or answer any of Ericksen’s challenges. He refers to assumptions about cellulosic ethanol, which are also a faulty. As Shift reported, past projections (including those of Jay Inslee) on the availability of cellulosic ethanol have proven highly inaccurate, failing to live up to expectations.
We can’t say we are surprised that the gas-price raising fuel mandate is being constructed using highly suspect predictions and faulty assumptions. After all, Inslee has a long track record of creating policies based on these standards.