Big Sky in Big Trouble under LCFS

If you have a minute or two to look through today’s final edition of the Billings Gazette, you won’t be disappointed. Under the headline “Ad blitz warns of higher fuel prices in wake of proposed carbon caps,” Gazette reporter Tom Lutey writes about the television and radio advertisements produced by CEA in Montana to educate folks across that state about the serious consequences of a nationwide LCFS – especially for states, like Montana, that rely heavily on shipments of Canadian crude to fuel, power and illuminate their economy.

From the piece:

Tougher pollution standards for gasoline could mean higher fuel prices in Montana and Wyoming, say groups who launched cautionary media campaigns in key Western states last week. Consumer Energy Alliance … rolled out a last-minute ad campaign warning voters of would-be low-carbon fuel standards penalizing dirtier fuels, like heavy Montana and Wyoming crude, and more importantly, Canadian oil sands. Most of Montana’s fuel comes from Canada.

“Ninety-three percent of the transportation fuels in Montana come from Canada,” said Michael Whatley, Consumer Energy Alliance vice president.

Why is that important? Because an LCFS would initiate a de facto ban on U.S. imports of secure, Canadian energy – stopping those supplies of affordable energy from crossing the border, and inviting overseas, unstable regimes to step up and claim the market share left vacant by our wrongheaded fuel policies.

No state uses more Canadian oil (as a percentage of total demand) than Montana. And as such: No state stands to lose more under an LCFS than the Treasure State (that’s Montana’s official nickname; we like “Big Sky” state better, though).

Where do Montana’s elected leaders come down on this issue? Where are lawmakers from other Big Sky states like Wyoming? Thanks to CEA’s educational campaign, we’re starting to find out. Check out the comments that Lutey included in the piece from U.S. Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), as well as Democratic Wyoming governor Dave Freudenthal:

Early in the clean-energy debate, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal cautioned Congress that low-carbon fuel standards would unfairly burden Western states where Canadian tar sands oil is refined. “With regional crude oil fields in decline, several Wyoming refineries are required to process [oil] sands oil,” Freudenthal said in a letter to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman. …

Baucus’ written remarks were along the same lines … “As Chairman of the Finance Committee, and as the senior Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Agriculture Committee, I will make sure any legislation is right for Montanans.” …

“This issue isn’t going to be in front of the full Senate anytime soon,” Tester said. “If it does come before the Senate, I’ll only support legislation that works for Montana families, small businesses, and family farms and ranches.”

Is Sen. Tester right that LCFS legislation “isn’t going to be in front of the full Senate anytime soon”? Maybe he is – but only if you forget that LCFS provisions were included in earlier versions of cap-and-trade, and pretend not to hear statements from Senate leaders indicating that an LCFS will likely resurrect itself once again this fall.

Of course, you’d also have to ignore the fact that President Obama himself introduced LCFS legislation as the centerpiece of his energy agenda while still a junior senator from Illinois. Or the fact that Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) continues to declare his intention to bring up, and seek support for, an LCFS amendment during the climate debate.

For advocates of secure access to affordable energy, though, Sen. Tester’s assurance that he will “only support legislation that works for Montana’s families, small businesses, and family farms and ranches” basically rules out the notion that he’d support an LCFS, right? We sure hope so. But only time will tell for sure.

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