Tailpipe emissions.

Tailpipe emissions.

Flickr/eutopication and hypoxia

There’s a low rumble as long-haul trucks pull into Vintner’s Logistics on the southwest edge of Kennewick, Washington. Caseloads of wine are piled on storage shelves, waiting to be shipped from what owner Robert Thompson calls “the heart of Washington wine country.”

For 12 years, Thompson has ushered trucks up and down this well-traveled road, sending wine along the West Coast.

“We’re truly from vineyard to table for the wine industry,” he said.

One major expense: fuel, Thompson said. The company has about 20 trucks and 40 trailers.

He’s worried a proposal by state lawmakers in Olympia that aims to limit greenhouse gas emissions could drastically increase those fuel costs, like rising costs he’s noticed in California.

Robert Thompson has run Vintners Logistics for 12 years. The company stores and ships Washington wine. Thompson worries a low carbon fuel standard could drastically increase fuel costs for the trucking industry.

Robert Thompson has run Vintners Logistics for 12 years. The company stores and ships Washington wine. Thompson worries a low carbon fuel standard could drastically increase fuel costs for the trucking industry.

Courtney Flatt

“We manage things very tightly. We have real-time fuel data, so I can tell exactly what fuel mileage each truck is getting right then and there,” Thompson said.

Washington lawmakers are developing a low carbon fuels standard. If signed into law, new rules would limit the amount of carbon coming out of car and truck tailpipes. Backers say it’s necessary to combat climate change. Critics say it will increase the price at the pump, although some lawmakers say dramatic price increases are not certain.

The bill would reduce a vehicle’s carbon intensity by 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2028. It would continue to reduce carbon intensity to 20 percent below 2017 levels by 2035.

It would allow companies to use any technology that best fits their needs to reach carbon reduction goals – from biodiesel to fuel made from pulp mill waste to natural gas from dairy digesters.

Lobbyists for the trucking industry said there are already efforts in place to reduce pollutants from semi-trucks.

Thompson said he’s worked hard to make his trucks more environmentally friendly: super-efficient engines, specially-rated tires, updated emissions control systems. That’s why he said a low carbon fuel standard isn’t necessary.

“We basically talk within the industry that the exhaust coming out of the truck is actually cleaner than the air that went into it,” Thompson said.

It’s About The Carbon

But reducing air toxics isn’t the primary goal behind clean fuels standards like the one being pushed in Washington. It’s about reducing the carbon dioxide from gasoline- and diesel-burning engines.

Burning fossil fuels, such as gasoline and coal, releases heat-trapping carbon dioxide molecules into the air. That process is increasing average temperatures around the globe. In the Northwest, climate change is reducing snowpack, as more precipitation falls as rain, and increasing the severity and length of wildfire season. And the release of more carbon into the atmosphere is changing the Pacific Ocean’s chemistry, acidifying the water and threatening shell-building creatures like oysters.

Stu Clark, air quality program manager at the Washington Department of Ecology, said transportation is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions and “traditional” air pollutants, like gasoline vapors and nitrous oxides, in the state.

Tailpipe emissions.

Tailpipe emissions.

Mike Roberts, Flickr Creative Commons