Southern California environment news and trends

California oil refineries produce most greenhouse emissions in U.S.

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A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists reveals that California oil refineries emit 19 to 33 percent more greenhouse gasses than any other comparable region in America.

According to Inside Climate News, while California refineries have worked hard over the last 17 years to combat pollutants, dirtier and harder to clean types of crude oil (such as Canadian tar sands oil) have undone any progress by forcing the facilities to work harder to process — and create more CO2 emissions. California refineries are also known for removing sulfur earlier in the cleaning process, which contributes to the elevated emissions.

“With respect to emissions intensity, California officials have been running around claiming California’s oil refineries are so much more energy efficient, that they are just cleaner… Obviously they were wrong,” said Greg Karras, a senior scientist with Communities for a Better Environment who wrote the study.

Scientists like Simon Mui of the Natural Resources Defense Council thinks the solution could lie in setting a new industry-wide performance standard, akin to the way the auto industry raised gas efficiency. The contention is that the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) folded into the 2006 climate change law A.B. 32 might be the answer. A.B. 32 is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by the year 2020, and a whopping 80 percent by 2050.

"The LCFS prevents refineries in California from getting increasingly dirtier by utilizing dirtier domestic and foreign sources of crude oil," Mui said. "The standards say oil companies must clean up, either by reducing the carbon intensity of their crude oils or offsetting those emissions in California. This approach effectively creates more value for lower carbon, less polluting crude oils."

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