Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner says the province's Ministry of the Environment should take over responsibility for developing a low carbon fuel standard because the Ministry of Energy has “dithered” over the project for far too long.
In Volume Two of Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller’s annual energy conservation report, Building Momentum: Results, he says that the Ontario government pledged in 2007 to introduce a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS). The commitment entailed a 10 per cent reduction by 2020 in the carbon intensity of Ontario’s transportation fuels.
“Key to meeting this commitment would be the introduction of the LCFS,” Miller stated in the December 9, 2013 report.
Ontario’s 2007 LCFS commitment involved a memorandum of understanding with California. While California has developed and used an LCFS to replace 6.2 per cent of its total gasoline and diesel fuel with lower-carbon alternatives such as ethanol, natural gas, biodiesel, and electricity, Miller fears that Ontario has moved in the opposite direction from its initial pledge. For instance, in 2010 Ontario cancelled tax credits for fuel conservation and alternative fuel use.
According to independent analysis conducted for Miller’s office, a similarly-designed Ontario LCFS could achieve approximately four per cent of the GHG reductions required to meet the province’s Climate Change Action Plan target for 2020.
“[…] Staff at the Ministry of Energy has insisted an LCFS is not technically feasible, and questioned its environmental benefits,” Miller stated in the report.
The Ministry of Energy has told Miller that an Ontario LCFS has been hindered by the “commercial immaturity of fuels that meet LCFS targets,” and the “complexity of modeling life-cycle emissions, especially from indirect effects,” such as land use change. The ministry also questions the environmental benefit of an LCFS, since it “does not guarantee absolute emissions reductions” and may result in “fuel shuffling,” where emissions are transferred to other jurisdictions without an LCFS regulation.
An LCFS in Ontario would require producers to phase in a 10 per cent reduction of carbon in transportation fuels sold in the province by 2020.
Miller suggested that the Ministry of the Environment may be a better fit to develop a LCFS because it had already ensured that Ontario’s gasoline contains five per cent ethanol, and is working away on a plan to reduce greenhouse gases produced from diesel fuels sold within the province.
The Ministry of the Environment is already responsible for regulating other transportation fuel qualities in Ontario.
“These are building blocks towards meeting the goal of a 10 per cent reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 2020,” stated Miller.