July 22, 2006

CALIFORNIA: The Future of Alternative Fuels in CA?

As Los Angeles County sweltered through the nation's latest heatwave (an omen of global warming?) an informational hearing of the Select Committee on Air and Water Quality was conducted in Santa Monica. The purpose of the hearing was to give its panel of state legislators a quick overview of the future of alternative fuels in California.

Representatives of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) talked about the status of their implementation of AB 1007 (the 2005 Alternative Fuels Act). There were also presentations by an electrical utility, alternative fuels proponents, and automobile representatives about the state of development of plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV), ethanol flex-fuel cars (FFV), biodiesel, Hydrogen Fuel Cells (FCV), and Natural Gas Fuel Cell technology (FCX). Out in the parking lot were a number of prototype vehicles representing each of the developing fuel systems and a mockup of the innovative Phill home natural gas refueling appliance.

Missing from the presentations was any mention of waste biomass as a primary source of feedstock necessary for California to become self-sufficient in its production of ethanol. Since California is not a "corn state" (about 95% of its ethanol demand of 900 million gallons of ethanol is imported) the variety and source of other biomass to feed the front end of ethanol production is a critically important issue.

Until CA legislators recognize the central importance of the feedstock issue, the state regulations necessary to enable the financing of R&D and deployment of conversion technology (CT) will continue to flounder as they have during the last several years of debate in the California Assembly Natural Resources Committee (AB 1090 and AB 2118).

Since legitimate questions about possible harmful CT emissions have been researched and been given a clean bill of health by the independent UC/CE-CERT there is no basis for obstructive sectors of California's environmental community and landfill operations to object to new technologies that promise to reduce landfill needs, extend recycling, improve air quality, reduce oil imports, clean the environment, save water, cut greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon, co-generate green electricity, create jobs, and make California much more energy independent.

The panel members (particularly members of the Natural Resources Committee) who attended this meeting should join their State legislator colleagues, L.A. area politicians, utility proponents, academics, and Los Angeles area stakeholders at next week's Southern California Emerging Waste Technologies Forum. Session topics will include:

1 - "CONVERSION 101" - Panelists representing the public sector and academia will provide an overview of conversion technologies: what they are; how they work; where they might fit into our existing waste management infrastructure.

2 - “WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW” - Representatives from state and local government, community, academia, and the private sectors will discuss their experiences and the latest developments regarding conversion technologies.

3 - "L. A. STAKEHOLDER PERSPECTIVE" - A facilitated roundtable discussion of stakeholder interests representing community, environmental justice, environmental, state, regional, local, industry, and academia on the challenges and opportunities for emerging waste technologies in the City of Los Angeles.

I will review this conference next weekend.

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