SALEM — A math error in the rules of a state program that seeks to increase the use of biofuels will make it slightly harder for oil companies to comply and easier for biofuels companies to generate revenue under the program until it’s fixed, a state agency said Friday.
Cory Ann Wind, who manages the low-carbon fuel standard program for the state Department of Environmental Quality, acknowledged the error Friday.
Wind said in an interview an oil company recognized the error in the agency’s numbers when working out how to comply with what’s called the Clean Fuels program.
“Their math wasn’t matching up with my numbers,” Wind said. “They were right.”
At issue are what’s called carbon intensity standards. Carbon intensity is a measurement of a fuel’s cleanliness in terms of greenhouse gas that’s emitted when the fuel is produced, distributed and burned. Biofuels like corn-based ethanol and cooking oil-based biodiesel are deemed cleaner fuels. Under the program they generate credits when they’re sold.
Traditional oil has a higher carbon intensity and therefore must be altered to comply with the standards. If a company can’t or chooses not to meet the standards by blending biofuels into its product, it generates deficits and must buy credits from clean fuel producers or face penalties.
The program gradually ratchets down the carbon intensity standards that are allowed over the coming 10 years — as the intensities go down, fuel becomes cleaner in the eyes of the program.
The program went into effect in January after the Legislature gave it final approval last March . Clean Fuels seeks to prevent 2 to 3 percent of greenhouse gases from being emitted from transportation fuels sold in the state over the coming decade.
Fixing the mistake will make it slightly easier for oil companies to stay in compliance with a year’s standards.
It also means many biofuels companies whose products are deemed cleaner than the standards will generate credits more quickly, according to DEQ figures.
Wind’s calculations didn’t account for a metric involved in generating the carbon intensities for the program, resulting in standards that were about 0.8 percent lower than they should be, according to a review of new standards that take effect in April after the mistake is fixed.
Wind said DEQ will hold a temporary rule-making session in April to put the new numbers into effect. She said the agency would then seek to make the rules permanent in August.
The new math comes after DEQ amended the enforcement deadlines of the program. The agency voted in December to give oil companies two to three extra years to comply with the program before facing penalties.
The changes also come as a group of traditional fuel distributors might try to put a repeal of Clean Fuels before voters.
Oil companies say it will be difficult to comply with the program and that Clean Fuels will push up the price of fuel.
— Reporter: 406-589-4347,