House passes clean fuel standards bill

The House of Representatives passed legislation on a 36-33 vote aimed at reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels on Saturday. HB 41 would create a market where companies that produce high carbon intensity fuels can buy credits that are created by companies producing low carbon intensity fuels. Credits could also be generated by school […]

House passes clean fuel standards bill

The House of Representatives passed legislation on a 36-33 vote aimed at reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels on Saturday.

HB 41 would create a market where companies that produce high carbon intensity fuels can buy credits that are created by companies producing low carbon intensity fuels. Credits could also be generated by school districts and utilities through decarbonization efforts. 

Rep. Kristina Ortez, D-Taos, argued that the bill could spur economic development and improve health for people who have respiratory conditions. 

She further argued that there is no evidence that states that have enacted clean transportation fuel standards have seen gasoline prices increase as a result of those standards and that the standards will increase the options people have when fueling their vehicles.

Rep. Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, argued that the states that have clean transportation fuel standards have higher costs of gasoline than New Mexico.

However, proponents say the high costs of gasoline in states like California are due to other factors and not as a direct result of the clean transportation fuel standards. 

Scott acknowledged that the higher fuel costs are due to various factors, but said the clean transportation fuel standards contribute to the difference due to the fuel credits.

“I feel like we’re not talking about all the other factors that make up the price of gasoline,” Ortez said.

She highlighted the difference between gas taxes in New Mexico and California and said New Mexico has the second lowest gas tax.

“The prices at the pump in California are related to all kinds of other factors, global factors, manufacturing, what’s happening in Ukraine, to their own taxes, but not the clean fuel credit market,” she said. “The evidence is not there. It just isn’t.”

Scott then argued that the benefits in terms of air quality will be not measurable, comparing it to using a turkey baster to drop “turkey drippings” into the water at the top of Niagara Falls and then not being able to taste any of that turkey grease in the water at the bottom. 

Ortez replied that she did not think she would drink any water from Niagara Falls but that turkey grease could possibly be used as a biofuel, which could be a clean fuel source under the legislation.

Later, during questioning by Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, Ortez spoke about growing up with asthma in a community that had the worst air in the nation.

“So that’s why this bill is actually kind of personal for me. knowing what it costs the family not just financially but in worry in time spent away from school, my mom taking off days of work to take care of me for this bronchitis that I had that was actually asthma,” she said.

She said reducing pollutants like ground-level ozone and oxides of nitrogen will help people who suffer from respiratory illness.

Rep. Jared Hembree, R-Roswell, argued that fuels like biodiesel produce less energy per gallon than traditional diesel.

“So if a gallon of biodiesel has less energy in it then in a gallon of traditional diesel, we can say that it is less efficient,” he said.

Hembree said this will result in vehicles getting fewer miles per gallon and having less horsepower.

Ortez agreed with Hembree, but said it is not a biodiesel bill and gave the example of renewable diesel, which she said is just as efficient if not more efficient than traditional diesel. Additionally, she said the bill allows for hydrogen fuel for vehicles, which is energy efficient.

Under further questioning from Hembree, Ortez acknowledged that historically hydrogen has been produced from fossil fuels. But she said the industry is moving toward green hydrogen, which is created using water.

“But this is not a debate about hydrogen,” she said.

Hembree then attempted to amend the bill to require a sticker at the pump to show how the clean transportation fuel standards are impacting the costs consumers pay. Hembree said he does not believe companies will take steps to reduce the carbon intensity of their fuels and will instead opt to buy credits on the market and pass those costs on to customers.

During questioning, he acknowledged that HB 41 did not have an appropriation attached.

Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque, argued that without an appropriation, the amendment would lead to an unfunded mandate because a study would be needed to calculate the cost of complying with the legislation.

Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, argued that the costs of oil spills, orphaned oil wells and asthma are not advertised to customers when they fill up with fuel.

The amendment failed on a 39-30 vote.  

The legislation now heads to the Senate.

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