February 28, 2023 Blog

A Clean Fuel Standard Can Help Decarbonize Transportation

By Dan Bowerson

I’m in Florida at the National Ethanol Conference for a conversation about a national clean fuel standard and the future of liquid fuels in transportation.

With all the talk about decarbonization, electrification and the shift to zero emission vehicles (ZEVs), you might ask where the auto industry is on clean fuels.

First, it’s true. The future is electric. Vehicle manufacturers are making multi-billion-dollar investments in automotive electrification – across vehicle and battery production.

Federal and state regulations are also moving decisively toward electrification through regulations and mandates. President Biden directed the EPA and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to implement rules that produce EV sales of 50 percent by 2030. Look for those regulations later this month or next.

It’s not just Washington. California recently adopted its Advanced Clean Cars II regulation requiring 100 percent EV sales by 2035. About 35 percent of the U.S. light-duty market will follow California’s lead.

Are these goals feasible? Maybe, if they are accompanied by other conditions like charging infrastructure, supply chains, labor and critical mineral availability.

These regulations should align with other activities and can be successful through a coordinated set of policies – including clean fuel standards that complement, encourage and support the goal of sector-wide carbon neutrality.

Back to 2023 where EV sales are now about seven percent of U.S. light-duty vehicles sales. Just one percent of the 270 million light-duty vehicles on the road in the U.S. today are powered by electricity. Put another way: 265 million vehicles (with a lifespan of about 12 years) currently operate on liquid fuels.

The point? Even with the ambitious EV goals and the tremendous progress toward electrification, the vast majority of vehicles on the road for the foreseeable future will run on liquid fuels.

That’s why the goal of the fuel industry and policymakers ought to be liquid fuel improvements and decarbonization ASAP. To get these fuels in the marketplace (and have an impact) they need to be under development today.

We’re supportive of federal and state clean fuel standards also known as low carbon fuel standards. Properly structured, these market-based policies can support not only electrification, but further reduce emissions from every vehicle on the road while we transition to electrification as quickly as possible.

Dan Bowerson is Senior Director, Energy and Environment at Alliance for Automotive Innovation.