Researchers find California can improve biofuel usage

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California has been inefficient in maximizing its biofuel opportunities, according to a December report by a climate initiative at UC Berkeley and UCLA law schools.

Ethan Elkind, associate director of the Climate Change and Business Research Initiative, authored the report that indicated that although California has created policies that have increased demand for biofuels, the state could do more to provide economic benefits for residents by increasing in-state production.

According to Lisa Mortenson, chief executive officer of Community Fuels, it is important to increase in-state production because “job creation from imports is almost nothing.”

The findings came about after a group of experts and industry officials discussed the intersection of climate change and economics at a convention organized by the Berkeley Law School in May.

The goal is to have 50 percent of the biofuels used in California sourced from the state itself by 2030, Elkind said, which is a seminal year for the climate agenda set by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“The demand side of the equation has been really taken care of (by state policies), but the piece that California is missing is the production incentive for in-state production,” Mortenson said.

An overview by Elkind of the report’s findings during a webinar Monday showed that some challenges to boosting biofuel usage include lack of feedstock access — such as corn and algae — and policy misalignment.

“Policies in California are operating at cross purposes,” Elkind said, speaking to the contradictions of some legislations regarding climate change.

The report offers several solutions, such as creating financial incentives for industry incumbents and conducting a pollution reduction study.

The paper, according to the report, is the 16th in a series that studies how climate change will present opportunities for certain business sectors to take advantage of environmental changes to improve both the economy and the environment. The series also looks at how policymakers can help to make the most of these opportunities.

Rich Brown, senior vice president at the Bank of America — which sponsored the initiative — and a participant in the webinar, said that the bank is involved because the recommendations set forth in the report require capital. The Bank of America has planned to allocate $125 billion to address issues regarding climate change and natural resources, according to Brown.

Participants in the webinar emphasized that the recommendations in the report would help localize the resolutions made at the most recent United Nations annual climate conference in Paris.

Ericka Shin covers research and ideas. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ericka_shin.