A consultant hired by Gov. Jay Inslee says Washington gasoline prices might go up by 2 cents per gallon by 2020 and a dime by 2026 if the state adopts a clean fuels standard.
The draft report by Life Cycle Associates of Portola, California, is still under revision. The latest version was posted online at the state Office of Financial Management website, and it assumes a phase-in of blended fuels over a decade starting in 2017.
Inslee has promised a public process for any steps he might take to adopt a standard by administrative rule, which his staff believes he has authority to do through the state Department of Ecology.
“The report, once it is final, will inform the governor’s decision on next steps. He will be consulting legislators and stakeholders before making that decision,” OFM spokesman Ralph Thomas said Wednesday in an email.
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Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, has said climate change-related proposals should go through the divided Legislature.
The carbon content of fuels, which is linked to greenhouse gases and climate change, would fall by 10 percent over the period, under the study assumptions. It predicts a 20 percent reduction in petroleum consumption over the next decade just due to improved fuel economy of vehicles and expectations of fewer miles traveled by motorists, and another 5 to 11 percent reduction in petroleum consumption due to a low-carbon fuel standard.
The clean fuels policy, also known as a low-carbon fuel standard, has been controversial and is among options Inslee is weighing as he tries to lower the state’s emissions to meet targets set in state law for 2020 and later dates. The transportation sector contributes about 45 percent of carbon emissions, according to a joint executive-legislative task force that met last year on climate issues.
State Senate and House Republicans have been outspoken in saying the fuel standard could be costly — even more than $1 per gallon — and harmful to the economy. The GOP’s cost claims have rested on a report that experts at the University of California at Davis found faults with when it did a peer review of it.
A final version of the Life Cycle Associates report is due in mid-November, according to OFM. The draft report outlines four scenarios for reducing the carbon content in transportation — among them is more use of zero-emissions or electric vehicles, more use of compressed natural gas, use of ethanol made from cellulosic sources such as wheat straw and forestry residues, and others requiring biodiesel or gasoline blends using high levels of ethanol from conventional biofuels.
The report is being developed with feedback from stakeholders that include the Western States Petroleum Association, the national biodiesel board, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Tesoro. Staffers with the University of California-Davis Policy Institute are assisting in the technical review of the consultant’s evaluation.