California Laws and Incentives for Ethanol

The list below contains summaries of all California laws and incentives related to Ethanol.

State Incentives

Alternative Fuel and Vehicle Incentives

The California Energy Commission (CEC) administers the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP) to provide financial incentives for businesses, vehicle and technology manufacturers, workforce training partners, fleet owners, consumers, and academic institutions with the goal of developing and deploying alternative and renewable fuels and advanced transportation technologies. The CEC must prepare and adopt an annual Investment Plan for the ARFVTP to establish funding priorities and opportunities that reflect program goals and to describe how program funding will be used to complement other public and private investments. Funded projects include:

  • Commercial alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) demonstrations and deployment;
  • Alternative and renewable fuel production;
  • Research and development of alternative and renewable fuels and innovative technologies;
  • AFV manufacturing;
  • Workforce training; and
  • Public education, outreach, and promotion.
For more information, see the ARFVTP website. (Reference Assembly Bill 8, 2013; California Vehicle Code 5205.5; California Health and Safety Code 44270-44274.7; and California Code of Regulations, Title 13, Chapter 8.1)

Alternative Fuel and Advanced Vehicle Career Training

The Clean Technology and Renewable Energy Job Training, Career Technical Education, and Dropout Prevention Program provides grant funding to school districts for occupational training programs that focus on employment in clean technology businesses or renewable energy businesses, such as clean vehicle technologies, or cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, biomass power, green waste, and fuel cell production. (Reference California Education Code 54690-54699)

Employer Invested Emissions Reduction Funding - South Coast

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) administers the Air Quality Investment Program (AQIP). AQIP provides funding to allow employers within SCAQMD's jurisdiction to make annual investments into an administered fund to meet employers' emissions reduction targets. The revenues collected are used to fund alternative mobile source emissions/trip reduction programs, including alternative fuel vehicle projects, on an on-going basis. Programs such as low emission, alternative fuel, or zero emission vehicle procurement, and old vehicle scrapping may be considered for funding. For more information, including current requests for proposals and funding opportunities, see the AQIP website.

Point of Contact
Shashi Singeetham
Air Quality Specialist
South Coast Air Quality Management District
Phone: (909) 396-3298
Fax: (909) 396-3608

Low Emission Vehicle Incentives and Technical Training - San Joaquin Valley

The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) administers the REMOVE II program, which provides incentives for cost-effective projects that result in motor vehicle emissions reductions and long-term impacts on air pollution in the San Joaquin Valley. As of November 2013, REMOVE II is providing funding for vanpool agencies that reduce or replace single occupant vehicle commutes in the San Joaquin Valley. To participate, vanpool agencies must submit an application to SJVAPCD and sign a contract to become a Vanpool Voucher Incentive Program partner. REMOVE II also includes an Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Mechanic Training Component that provides incentives to educate personnel on the mechanics, operation safety, and maintenance of AFVs, fueling stations, and tools involved in the implementation of alternative fuel technologies. For more information, see the REMOVE II website and the AFV Mechanic Training Component website.

Utility/Private Incentives

Biofuel Volume Rebate Program - Propel Fuels

Propel Fuels offers a rebate to qualified fleet customers for monthly purchases of more than 500 gallons of biodiesel blends and E85. Fleet customers must purchase the fuel directly from Propel public retail locations using the Propel CleanDrive Fleet Card. The program offers a rebate of $0.03 per gallon for purchases of less than 1,000 gallons of biofuel per month, and $0.05 per gallon for purchases of 1,000 gallons or more per month. The rebate is applied at the end of each monthly billing cycle. For more information, see the Propel Clean Fleet Solution website.

Laws and Regulations

Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Parking Incentive Programs

The California Department of General Services (DGS) and California Department of Transportation (DOT) must develop and implement AFV parking incentive programs in public parking facilities operated by DGS with 50 or more parking spaces and park-and-ride lots owned and operated by DOT. The incentives must provide meaningful and tangible benefits to drivers, such as preferential spaces, reduced fees, and fueling infrastructure. Fueling infrastructure built at park-and-ride lots is not subject to restricted use by those using bicycles, public transit, or ridesharing. (Reference California Public Resources Code 25722.9)

Low Carbon Fuel Standard

Low Carbon Fuel Standard California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Program requires a reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels that are sold, supplied, or offered for sale in the state by a minimum of 10% by 2020. The California Air Resources Board (ARB) regulations require transportation fuel producers and importers to meet specified average carbon intensity requirements for fuel. In the regulations, carbon intensity reductions are based on reformulated gasoline mixed with 10% corn-derived ethanol and low-sulfur diesel fuel. Liquefied petroleum gas (propane) is exempt from LCFS requirements, as are non-biomass-based alternative fuels that are supplied in California for use in transportation at an aggregated volume of less than 3.6 million gasoline gallon equivalents per year. Other exemptions apply for transportation fuel used in specific applications. The LCFS Program allows producers and importers to generate, acquire, transfer, bank, borrow, and trade credits. Fuel producers and importers regulated under the LCFS must meet quarterly and annual reporting requirements. For more information, see the LCFS Program website. (Reference California Code of Regulations Title 17, Section 95480-95490; Executive Order S-01-07, 2007; and California Health and Safety Code 38500-38599)

Support for Advance Biofuel Development

The California Legislature urges the U.S. Congress or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take action to amend the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard to favor non-food crop biofuel feedstocks and promote the development of advanced fuels, such as cellulosic ethanol. (Reference Assembly Joint Resolution 21, 2013)

State Transportation Plan

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) must update the California Transportation Plan (Plan) by December 31, 2015, and every five years thereafter. The Plan must address how the state will achieve maximum feasible emissions reductions, taking into consideration the use of alternative fuels, new vehicle technology, and tailpipe emissions reductions. Caltrans must prepare and submit an interim report to the California Transportation Commission and to the Senate and Assembly committees related to transportation, environmental quality, natural resources, and local government by December 31, 2012. Caltrans must consult and coordinate with related state agencies, air quality management districts, public transit operators, and regional transportation planning agencies. Caltrans must also provide an opportunity for general public input. Caltrans must submit a final draft of the Plan to the legislature and governor. A copy of the interim report is available on the Caltrans website. (Reference California Government Code 65071-65073)

Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Standards

California's LEV II exhaust emissions standards apply to Model Year (MY) 2004 and subsequent model year passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles meeting specified exhaust standards. The LEV II standards represent the maximum exhaust emissions for LEVs, Ultra Low Emission Vehicles, and Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicles, including flexible fuel, bi-fuel, and dual-fuel vehicles when operating on an alternative fuel. MY2009 and subsequent model year passenger cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles must meet specified fleet average greenhouse gas (GHG) exhaust emissions requirements. Each manufacturer must comply with these fleet average GHG requirements, which are based on California Air Resources Board calculations. Bi-fuel, flexible fuel, dual-fuel, and grid-connected hybrid electric vehicles may be eligible for an alternative compliance method.

In December 2012, ARB finalized new regulatory requirements, referred to as LEV III, which allows vehicle manufacturer compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's GHG requirements for model years 2017-2025 to serve as compliance with California's adopted GHG emissions requirements for those same model years. See the LEVII and LEV III Program website for more information. (Reference California Code of Regulations Title 13, Section 1961-1961.3)

Alternative Fuel and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Retrofit Regulations

Converting a vehicle to operate on an alternative fuel in lieu of the original gasoline or diesel fuel is prohibited unless the California Air Resources Board (ARB) has evaluated and certified the retrofit system. ARB will issue certification to the manufacturer of the system in the form of an Executive Order once the manufacturer demonstrates compliance with the emissions, warranty, and durability requirements. A manufacturer is defined as a person or company who manufactures or assembles an alternative fuel retrofit system for sale in California; this definition does not include individuals wishing to convert vehicles for personal use. Individuals interested in converting their vehicles to operate on an alternative fuel must ensure that the alternative fuel retrofit systems used for their vehicles have been ARB certified. For more information, see the ARB Alternative Fuel Retrofit System website.

A hybrid electric vehicle that is Model Year 2000 or newer and is a passenger car, light-duty truck, or medium-duty vehicle may be converted to incorporate off-vehicle charging capability if the manufacturer demonstrates compliance with emissions, warranty, and durability requirements. ARB issues certification to the manufacturer and the vehicle must meet California emissions standards for the model year of the original vehicle.

ARB is considering amendments to the alternative fuel certification procedures for new and in-use vehicles and engines. For more information, see the Proposed Amendments website. (Reference California Code of Regulations Title 13, Section 2030-2032, and California Vehicle Code 27156)

Alternative Fuel Tax

The excise tax imposed on compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG or propane) used to operate a vehicle can be paid through an annual flat rate sticker tax based on the following vehicle weights:

Unladen WeightFee
All passenger cars and other vehicles 4,000 pounds (lbs.) or less$36
More than 4,000 lbs. but less than 8,001 lbs.$72
More than 8,000 lbs. but less than 12,001 lbs.$120
12,001 lbs. or more$168

Alternatively, owners and operators may pay an excise tax on CNG of $0.07 per 100 cubic feet measured at standard pressure and temperature, $0.06 per gallon of LNG, and $0.06 per gallon of propane. The excise tax on ethanol and methanol fuel blends containing up to 15% gasoline or diesel fuel is half of the current tax on gasoline and diesel.

(Reference California Revenue and Taxation Code 8651-8651.8)

Vehicle Acquisition and Petroleum Reduction Requirements

The California Department of General Services (DGS) is responsible for maintaining specifications and standards for passenger cars and light-duty trucks that are purchased or leased for state office, agency, and department use. These specifications include minimum vehicle emissions standards and encourage the purchase or lease of fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). On an annual basis, DGS must compile information including, but not limited to, the number of AFVs and hybrid electric vehicles acquired, the locations of the alternative fuel pumps available for those vehicles, and the total amount of alternative fuels used.

Vehicles the state owns or leases that are capable of operating on alternative fuel must operate on that fuel unless the alternative fuel is not available. Additionally, the California State and Consumer Services Agency, in consultation with DGS and other appropriate state agencies, must develop, implement, and submit to the California Legislature and governor a plan to increase the state fleet's use of alternative fuels, synthetic lubricants, and fuel-efficient vehicles. This must be done by reducing or displacing the fleet's consumption of petroleum products by 20% by January 1, 2020, as compared to the 2003 consumption level. DGS must also:

  • Take steps to transfer vehicles between agencies and departments to ensure that the most fuel-efficient vehicles are used and to eliminate the least fuel-efficient vehicles from the state's motor vehicle fleet;
  • Submit annual progress reports to the California Department of Finance, related legislative committees, and the general public via the DGS website;
  • Encourage other agencies to operate AFVs on the alternative fuel for which they are designed, to the extent feasible;
  • Encourage the development of commercial fueling infrastructure at or near state vehicle fueling or parking sites; and
  • Work with other agencies to incentivize and promote state employee use of AFVs through preferential or reduced-cost parking, access to electric vehicle charging, or other means, to the extent feasible.

(Reference Executive Order S-14-09, 2009, and California Public Resources Code 25722.5 - 25722.9)

Alternative Fuel and Vehicle Policy Development

The California Energy Commission (CEC) must prepare and submit an Integrated Energy Policy Report (IEPR) to the governor on a biannual basis. The IEPR provides an overview of major energy trends and issues facing the state, including those related to transportation fuels, technologies, and infrastructure. The IEPR also examines potential effects of alternative fuels use, vehicle efficiency improvements, and shifts in transportation modes on public health and safety, the economy, resources, the environment, and energy security. The IEPR's primary purpose is to develop energy policies that conserve resources, protect the environment, ensure energy reliability, enhance the state's economy, and protect public health and safety. For the current IEPR, see the CEC California's Energy Policy

Beginning November 1, 2015, and every four years thereafter, the CEC must also include in the IEPR strategies to maximize the benefits of natural gas in various sectors. This includes the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel. (Reference Assembly Bill 1257, 2013, and California Public Resources Code 25302 and 25303.5)