Massachusetts, Connecticut low-carbon fuel program draws industry ire

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. governors from Massachusetts and Connecticut announced their commitment to a low-carbon transportation program on Monday, but gasoline-related trade groups say it has flaws that will harm, rather than promote, use of fuels that produce fewer pollutants.

Some oil refiners and energy trade groups have been more supportive this year of low-carbon fuel programs nationwide because the incentives can prove profitable for their industries.

The Transportation and Climate Initiative Program, or TCI-P, favored by the states would require large gasoline and diesel suppliers to purchase auctionable “allowances” for the pollution caused by combustion of fuels they sell in participating areas.

Trade groups, including the National Association of Truckstop Operators (NATSO) and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), argue that TCI-P fails to effectively encourage investment in alternative fuels, and instead only penalizes fuel retailers that sell traditional fuel, according to a letter seen by Reuters addressed to a Massachusetts state official.

Another incentive program, California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, allows refiners to generate tradable credits with production of lower carbon-intensive fuels.

“Market-oriented incentive policies have proven to drive private sector investment in clean fuels, but TCI’s centralized, punitive structure will make businesses reluctant to embrace alternative fuels,” said David Fialkov, counsel to NATSO.

Kathleen Theoharides, secretary for the executive office of energy and environmental affairs in Massachusetts, said that through the program, the market would encourage investment.

“This is certainly going to send a market signal that if they make investments in renewable blends, they can pass on a cheaper cost to consumers and outcompete their competitors,” Theoharides said.

Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Dan Grebler