Washington Lawmakers Move Closer To Passing Clean Fuels Bill; Opponents Say It’s Too Costly

Tailpipe exhaust is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state and nationwide. CREDIT: RICK BOWMER/AP
Tailpipe exhaust is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state and nationwide. CREDIT: Rick Bowmer/AP


Lowering the amount of carbon that comes out of your tailpipe has become a quest for some Washington lawmakers. Now, new standards that would promote biofuels over gasoline are closer to becoming law than ever before.

If signed into law, the low carbon fuel standard would make fuel coming out of tailpipes cleaner and cleaner through 2035.

Sponsors say the bill would incentivize clean fuel technology, though it doesn’t mandate any specific type of renewable fuel. Options could include biodiesel, renewable natural gas or electricity produced in Washington. 

If fuel producers don’t meet the standards, it would require them to purchase credits to make up for their extra greenhouse gas emissions. There are exemptions, including for fuel used for aircraft, locomotives and vessels, and fuel that’s exported out of Washington. Carbon limits for agricultural fuels are delayed until 2028.

The low carbon fuels standard would limit the “carbon intensity of transportation fuels.” That would mean limiting the heat-trapping emissions in all stages of fuel use. Everything from fuel production to fuel transportation to its combustion in engines.

Nearly 45 percent of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to transportation, according to the state Department of Ecology. That’s the largest slice of heat-trapping emissions in the state.

Supporters say this bill would change that – and reduce the air pollution coming from tailpipe emissions. 

“We owe it to future generations to protect the climate, improve our air quality, and create jobs in the biofuels industry. Washington can be a leader in clean fuel production, but we are falling behind our neighbors. This bill protects our climate, cleans our air, and grows clean energy jobs. This program is overdue, but it’s not too late for us to do our part,” said the bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon of West Seattle, after it passed the House in February.

Gov. Jay Inslee, a frequent booster of environmental initiatives, praised the bill on Friday.

“HB 10921 will reduce emissions, clean our air, and grow clean jobs, proving we can improve public health and increase economic opportunity by fighting the climate crisis,” Inslee said in a tweet


Republicans opposed to the measure have taken to labeling it the “high cost fuel standard,” a jab aimed at what they say would be an expensive jump at the pump for everyday drivers and businesses.

“If you envision that this bill is magically going to make the emissions out of your tailpipe cleaner, that’s just false,” said Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro Woolley.

Washington lawmakers have worked to pass similar legislation over several sessions. Now that it’s passed both the House and Senate, lawmakers will have to see if they can compromise on a few more details before it becomes law. That’s expected to happen in the coming days.

Oregon got a clean fuels program up and running five years ago. California and British Columbia also have similar requirements.

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Washington legislators revived a lapsed tax incentives for electric car purchases, effective August 1, 2019. CREDIT: TOM BANSE / NW NEWS NETWORK

Washington Lawmakers Revive Tax Break For Electric Vehicle Buyers

In their last minute dash to adjournment Sunday, Washington state legislators revived a lapsed sales tax break for buyers of electric cars. The resurrected incentive will be similar in value to a publicly-funded rebate for battery-powered cars that Oregon now offers.

A valuable tax break for buyers of fully-electric and plug-in hybrid cars in Washington expired last May.