April 11, 2021     

Combing the Coalition

Last issue, reported on a letter from the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) calling on New York State to include a clean fuel standard in its next annual budget. This letter was one of over 50 sent by members of a group called the Clean Fuels NY Coalition. The coalition describes itself as “a group of leading environmental, public health and energy groups led by the New York League of Conservation Voters, formed to demonstrate the diverse support for a clean fuel standard across industries.”

On November 11, 2020, the Clean Fuels NY Coalition announced its letter writing campaign in a post listing each of the groups involved. In addition to NBB, some of the names familiar to biofuel industry stakeholders include Neste, POET and World Energy. These, of course, are three of the biggest names in America’s renewable fuels market, responsible for producing billions of gallons of ethanol, biodiesel and renewable diesel annually. The reason for their support of a clean fuel standard in a state home to one of the country’s largest metropolitan energy markets is obvious. As Neste’s Dayne Delahoussaye wrote, “A New York Low Carbon Fuel Standard would create a dependable market for cleaner fuels, which will drive steady investment and innovation in the production and use of non-petroleum fuel sources...”
Notably, farmers are also represented in the letter campaign, with the New York Corn & Soybean Growers Association, New York Farm Bureau, and Northeast Dairy Producers Association all writing in support of a clean fuel standard. At least two individual dairy farmers sent letters as well. While corn and soybean growers provide feedstock for liquid biofuels, dairy farmers touted the benefits of biogas, or renewable natural gas, generated from cow manure. The Clean Fuels NY Coalition also includes numerous electrification proponents, and these groups too sent letters, citing the emission reductions of electric vehicles.   

Indeed, many of the members of this coalition are in direct competition with one another when it comes to the clean-energy economy. Biofuel producers and EV manufacturers like Tesla (another letter sender) both aim to reduce emissions in the transportation sector but through very different means. That such disparate groups have come together in support of a common policy goal says a lot about their mutual success under California’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. If this is a positive sign for the coalition’s prospects, then perhaps equally promising is the involvement of several major corporations that are neither energy nor agriculture companies but are likely far more familiar to the average New Yorker.

Four of the biggest names on the coalition’s list of letters are General Motors, DHL, Ikea and Lyft — companies whose vehicles are common sights in every New Yorker’s daily commute. While GM and Lyft have committed to electrifying their vehicles by 2030, DHL recently unveiled a plan to decarbonize its less-than-container-load ocean freight shipments by 2050 using marine biofuels.

New York’s landmark climate law, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), calls for the state to achieve 40 percent emission reductions by 2030 and 85 percent reductions by 2050 (compared with 1990 levels). Whether a clean fuel standard will be adopted to help meet these goals remains to be seen, but as one final note it’s worth pointing out that the CLCPA received mention in the letters of no fewer than a dozen coalition members, including those from the Natural Resources Defense Council as well as the coalition’s leader, the New York League of Conservation Voters.