SACRAMENTO — UC Davis Professor Daniel Sperling is one of California's new diet gurus, charged with setting an exercise regimen of sorts to trim the carbon "fat" out of the fuels that go into cars and trucks.
On the morning of Jan. 18, Sperling stood alongside Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at a news conference where he signed an executive order that spells out the state's historic effort to reduce the carbon in petroleum fuels and thereby cut the state's greenhouse gas emissions. Today, Sperling said, 41 percent of such emissions come from transportation fuels.
Sperling, director of UC Davis' Institute of Transportation Studies, is one of four UC professors assigned the job of writing the low-carbon fuel standard — the first such policy in the world. Schwarzenegger wants manufacturers to cut the carbon content of fuels sold in California by at least 10 percent by 2020.
"It's like losing weight," Schwarzenegger said at the news conference outside the Capitol. Arranged behind him were 14 alternative-fuel cars and trucks, many powered by hydrogen, others by batteries, ethanol and compressed natural gas — evidence that the private sector is working on the problem, trying to put the state on a greenhouse gas emissions diet.
But just like when people go on diets, the bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-governor said, it helps to set goals. In this case, the state's carbon-reduction goal will be written into law.
Setting the standard, Sperling said, "sends a signal to all of the energy providers and vehicle technology providers that they need to invest and innovate in more efficient technology and alternative technology."
Sperling, an engineering professor, is co-director of the UC team that will write the low-carbon fuel standard; the others include two more UC Davis energy experts and another from UC Berkeley.
Sperling said producers' options include improving manufacturing efficiency, and blending petroleum fuels with biofuels like ethanol.
A third option is buying fuel and emission credits from suppliers of cleaner fuels such as electricity, natural gas, hydrogen and biofuels. The intent, Sperling said, is to create a competitive market in which successful "green" manufacturers can profit off the less successful — and spur greater innovation by all.
"Our guiding principle will be to give producers the freedom to devise their own business strategies for meeting the standard," Sperling said in a news release. "That should let them maintain their competitive edge while also accelerating investment in clean fuels."
Schwarzenegger said his hope is that by 2020 California will have more than 7 million alternative-fuel or hybrid vehicles on the road — 20 times more than today.
And, with cleaner fuels and less reliance on foreign oil, California will be the global leader in providing "a clean, healthy and secure future for our children and for our grandchildren," he said.
The governor said California stands to gain economically as well. "Right now, entrepreneurs from around the world are investing billions of dollars in clean energy and in alternative fuels. Basically, by us signing this executive order today, what we are saying to those companies is, 'Come here, this is where the action is. Invest your money in California.'"
According to Schwarzenegger's office, UC experts estimate that the governor's greenhouse gas emission goals can increase the gross state product by about $60 billion and create more than 20,000 new jobs.
Indeed, many companies already are hard at work on the "greening" of California fuels, and some of those companies showed their support for Schwarzenegger's effort by sending speakers and display vehicles to the news conference.
Southern California Edison President John Fielder said his electric utility at nighttime has surplus capacity "that can charge millions of vehicles without building a single, additional power plant."
Rick Zalesky, a vice president with Chevron Technology Ventures, noted his company's recent partnership with UC Davis for research on biofuels. Chevron has committed up to $25 million over the next five years toward the development of affordable, renewable transportation fuels from farm and forest residues, urban wastes and crops grown specifically for energy.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, thanked the governor for his "bold, ambitious achievement here today," including his success in forging an alliance between business and environmental groups, as represented at the news conference by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
New standard by 2008
Linda Adams, secretary of the state's Environmental Protection Agency, said: "This is a good day for humankind and a good day for the Earth."
Nunez recalled how the governor Jan. 9 in his State of the State address promised to work with the Legislature on cleaner-fuel technology. "What I didn't know is how quickly we were going to move on this issue," Nunez said.
The governor's executive order directs Adams to coordinate with the California Energy Commission, UC and other state agencies to develop a compliance plan for the low-carbon fuel standard.
The California Air Resources Board then has until the end of June to review the plan. This summer, the board is to begin the regulatory process — with a goal of implementing the new standard no later than December 2008.
Sperling's co-director on the low-carbon fuel standard team is Alex Farrell, an assistant professor in the UC Berkeley Energy and Resources Group, and director of UC Berkeley's new Joint Center for Transportation Sustainability Research.
Rounding out the low-carbon fuel standard team are UC Davis professors Bryan Jenkins and Joan Ogden, and several graduate students and researchers.
Sylvia Wright of the UC Davis News Service contributed to this report.
Experts brief Congress on fuelsBy Sylvia Wright
A UC Davis team traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to brief members of Congress and their staffers on the status of clean car and truck fuels and technologies.
The discussion was meant to critically examine the future of automotive technologies and fuels that have the potential to dramatically reduce petroleum consumption and greenhouse gases in the transportation sector — including biofuels, hybrid electric technologies and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
The briefing, titled "Future Transportation Energy: Opportunities and Challenges," was scheduled Tuesday afternoon, hosted by U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, whose district includes UC Davis.
The UC Davis team: Daniel Sperling, Joan Ogden, Tom Turrentine and Anthony Eggert, all part of a new research initiative named Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS), within the Institute of Transportation Studies.
Building on ITS-Davis' expertise in both the engineering and consumer aspects of alternative transportation, STEPS will evaluate the technical, economic, environmental and policy issues that will arise as the nation increases its use of nonpetroleum fuels (such as biofuels and hydrogen) and vehicles (such as plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell cars).