THE NEXT STEP in the Ontario government’s Climate Change Action Plan is the development of a renewable fuel standard (RFS) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline by five per cent by the year 2020. The Ontario government’s proposed RFS will replace the current ethanol mandate Ontario farmers have relied on.
According to the government, the transportation sector accounted for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario in 2014; and emissions from passenger cars and trucks, buses, trains, and airplanes have grown almost 15 per cent since 1990.
The Ontario government released a discussion paper on the development of the RFS which notes, “The transition to a low carbon transportation sector in Ontario will require a holistic approach that lowers greenhouses gas emissions across the sector, while providing compliance flexibility and encouraging the use of green technology”.
Transitioning to low carbon transportation includes increasing the use of more energy efficient vehicles and an increase in the use of ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, renewable diesel, natural gas, hydrogen, and electricity. The government says the RFS will serve as a tool to support technology investment, commercialization, and utilization within the transportation sector.
Each fuel type has an associated carbon intensity number which takes into account the emissions generated across the entire production process from extraction through to end-use combustion.
The Ontario government’s discussion paper outlines how, under the new RFS, traditional fossil fuel suppliers would be required to reduce the lifecycle carbon intensity of the fuels they sell. “To meet their target they can increase the proportion of sustainable biofuels in the fuels they sell or purchase credits from others. Depending on program design, credits could be generated by suppliers of other low-carbon fuels that have opted into the program.”
IMPACT ON FARMERS
This change to a credit-based program is different from our current volume-based program that mandates the amount of ethanol required in gasoline allowing for an increase in the volume of renewable fuel in the system.
“We don’t know yet what this will mean for farmers in terms of the volume of ethanol that may end up being produced in the future the RFS provides an opportunity for more renewable fuels in the pool,” says Debra Conlon, manager of government relations at Grain Farmers of Ontario. “Ethanol has the opportunity to have a better carbon intensity number as yields increase and the processes used in ethanol plants get better; but at the same time the new RFS creates an opportunity for other fuels to compete with corn ethanol.”
Stakeholders, such as Grain Farmers of Ontario, were provided the opportunity to submit comments on the RFS discussion paper.
“We pointed out the ethanol mandate was originally a farm policy, and as corn yields increase we need to maintain and expand end-uses for our crop. We want to protect the domestic ethanol business farmers have grown to rely on,” says Conlon. “We will continue to have more corn growing on less land, and the domestic manufacturing industry — so how do we keep pace and make sure corn ethanol remains a desirable fuel in the future?”
“We want to make sure the government understands the value of corn ethanol,” Conlon emphasizes.
LEARNING FROM OTHERS
RFS programs have already been implemented in other jurisdictions, including British Columbia, California, Oregon, and the European Union.
Conlon has spoken with Canadian ethanol manufacturers, and says they are encouraged by the introduction of a new RFS as it will be good for their industry, and is something they have been in discussions with government about. IGPC is exploring plans to expand its plant in Aylmer.
The Ontario government wants to implement the new RFS for gasoline by next year. They claim the final draft of the policy will create a level playing field for evaluating the climate impact of all fuels, will set ambitious but achievable goals, and support consumer choice by increasing the number of low-carbon fuel options available. •