The demand for transportation fuels in California is increasing. The number of light-duty vehicles is projected to grow from 25.6 million on-road vehicles in 2003 to 35.6 million by 2025.
Unless we change our habits, petroleum will be the primary source of California's transportation fuels for the foreseeable future, and as demand continues to rise and in-state and Alaskan petroleum supplies diminish, California will rely more and more on foreign imports of crude oil.
Nearly 100 percent of the state's transportation system is currently fueled by fossil fuels. Moving toward a more diversified range of fuels and supporting the advancement of higher efficiency vehicles are two of the goals of the state's programs.
As the fifth-largest economy in the world, California is a "nation-state" that runs on energy. Every day, we spend $22 million for natural gas, $82 million on electricity, and $82 million for gasoline and diesel.
The State of California has supported the development of alternative transportation fuels (fuels other than gasoline or diesel) since the creation of the California Energy Commission in 1975. Earlier programs included demonstration programs with vehicles using ethanol and methanol, infrastructure development for methanol/gasoline blends, support for flexible fuel, natural gas, and electric vehicles.
Improving vehicle efficiency is the single most effective means to reduce petroleum dependence. The Energy Commission and the California Air Resources Board have concluded that improving vehicle efficiency alone will not be enough. For that reason, California must also focus on increasing our use of alternative fuels, including:
- Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)
- Electric Vehicles (EVs)
- Ethanol (E85) - Flexible Fuel Vehicles
- Gas-to-Liquid Fuels (natural gas to diesel fuel)
- Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Vehicles
- Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)
- Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG / Propane)
- LPG and CNG Conversions
- Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs)
The Energy Commission's 2003 Integrated Energy Policy Report recommended several actions to promote affordable energy supplies, improve energy reliability, and enhance public health, economic well-being, and environmental quality. One of the transportation energy recommendations established a goal for the use of alternative fuels:
"Increase the use of non-petroleum fuels to 20 percent of on-road fuel consumption by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030, based on identified strategies that are achievable and cost-beneficial."
California is already home to a growing number of alternative fuel vehicles through the joint efforts of the Energy Commission, California Air Resources Board, local air districts, federal government, transit agencies, utilities, and other public and private entities. More than 61,000 cars, transit buses, and trucks currently operate on natural gas and LPG, along with more than 10,000 electric vehicles. California also has hundreds of fueling stations dispensing a variety of non-petroleum fuels.
Increasing the use of these fuels, however, faces significant uncertainties such as the availability of new vehicle technologies, the cost and availability of new fueling infrastructures, and acceptance of these fuels by consumers.
Currently, the Energy Commission is working with stakeholders of various alternative fuels. These stakeholder working groups have participated in informal surveys to identify the principal barriers that exist to developing a more robust alternative fuels market in California and to develop recommendations for overcoming or mitigating those barriers.