Our ultra-green Governor of Washington is hell-bent on imposing – either with the help of the Legislature or by executive decree – a “Low Carbon Fuel Standard”, or LCFS for short. This guy is so green he could play Elfaba, the Wicked Witch in “Wicked” -- without makeup, and if he has his way, we’ll all be paying between ninety-three cents and a buck-eighteen per gallon more for gas with a higher “cellulosic fuel” component. In other words, more ethanol and plant-based fuel additives mixed in with traditional gasoline.
We all know what kind of havoc that wrecks on motorcycle engines. They run hotter, they burn more fuel, and high-ethanol fuel can eat through gas lines and filters, and they have only a marginal impact on reducing carbon. It will also void the manufacturers warranty if it causes damage. The Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges that high percentage ethanol fuels cause damage engines on motorcycles as well as pre 2000 model-year vehicles. Yet the Governor is still pushing for LCFS at the legislature in his desire to be the nation’s “greenest governor”.
On top of all of that, the complicated market manipulation forces that the Governor would impose and is required for LCSF will act as a higher gas tax, increasing the cost of gas by upwards of almost $1.20 per gallon. That’s on top of a pending 11.5 cent pre gallon increase sitting at the legislature now. It looks like our oh-too-short run of cheap gas is over again – probably for good this time.
So what is the point of all of this? Apparently it’s aimed at reducing carbon emissions. However, most studies I’ve seen show that the impact on carbon emissions is negligible from the gas itself. Where the impact comes is making the price so high people reduce driving, which I submit is the ultimate goal here. However the damage to engines, particularly motorcycles, ATVs, lawnmowers and other small engines is not. The Environmental Protection Agency even says so.
According to the EPA; "Ethanol impacts motor vehicles in two primary ways. First ... ethanol enleans the [air/fuel] ratio (increases the proportion of oxygen relative to hydrocarbons) which can lead to increased exhaust gas temperatures and potentially increase incremental deterioration of emission control hardware and performance over time, possibly causing catalyst failure. Second, ethanol can cause materials compatibility issues, which may lead to other component failures.”
Furthermore, growing corn and other plant matter for cellulosic fuel isn’t exactly healthy for the environment and may actually be more harmful. The Associated Press did a lengthy investigation in 2014 that said in part: “The ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than government admits today. The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. “
California instituted LCFS a few years ago, but has yet to fully implement it. But even in its partial phase, the “unique to California” blends of gasoline required from refineries has caused huge price spikes at times, and shortages at others. Most refineries will provide gas for a large surrounding area. Washington’s refineries provide gas in Oregon, Idaho and Montana as well. So if we impose LCFS here a refiner will have to guestimate how much gas Washington’s unique blend will require, and while making that won’t be able to make gas for other states, and if we run low while he’s making gas for the rest of the Northwest, guess what happens? The price goes way up, and gas supplies run way low.
At least there is some glimmer of hope as I write this in mid May. The Legislature – still in special session, and likely headed for a second special session – has a transportation package passed by the Republican controlled State Senate that would nip this in the bud. And while the package has a high 11.5 cent gas tax increase, and a few other things I don’t really like, it has what has become known as a “poison pill” and that’s why it hasn’t passed the Democratic controlled House yet and the Governor threatens to veto it. That “poison pill” says that if the Governor decides to impose an LCFS without Legislative approval, then all money that comes from fees (like car tab fees) would be diverted from bike lanes and pedestrian enhancements and transit and go to road construction.
Hey I think that should be the standard anyway, but I’m not the one writing the proposal, or I’d impose that on my own as a stand-alone provision. But in any case get ready for more clunk-clunk-clunk, and heat damage to your engine folks. If LCFS comes to pass, we’ll all be paying the price – more expensive gas that damages our rides. Like the character “Dogbert” in my favorite comic strip “Dilbert” says: “You can’t save the earth unless you’re willing to make other people sacrifice.” We bikers are going to be that sacrificial lamb.
Gary can be reached at email@example.com and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com or http://www.grgardner.com