Study: Biofuels Key in Reducing GHG Emissions

FROM THE NOVEMBER ISSUE: At the end of the day, ethanol is the only low-carbon, renewable fuel alternative for gasoline available at commercial scale.
By Jim Grey | October 17, 2017

The current policy landscape in Canada is exciting to say the least. The federal government is crafting a Clean Fuel Standard to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, with the transportation sector being one of three key targets.

Meanwhile, Quebec and Ontario are looking to implement new policies supporting the use of ethanol.
Within this context of a concerted build-out of policy supporting renewable fuels, Renewable Industries Canada (RICanada) welcomed a new Conference Board of Canada report, Renewable Fuel Standards Within a Low-Carbon Fuel Strategy, released in September. According to the report, maintaining blend mandates is critical to the success of Canada’s climate change agenda as it relates to the reduction of transportation emissions in the near and longer term.

The transportation sector is a top source of GHG emissions in Canada and is projected to grow with population and GDP growth. Maintaining volumetric requirements for renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel will be an integral part of Canada’s transition to a low carbon future.

The report says a “clean fuel standard that fails to maintain, or expand, current blend mandates for renewable fuels is not recommended.” Moreover, the report concludes that clean fuels targets envisioned as part of a broader CFS are almost certainly unattainable without mid- to high-level blending of renewables into the fuel stream.

Mark Jaccard, Professor of Sustainable Energy Economics at Simon Fraser University, says, "Governments have yet to achieve the levels of carbon pricing needed to transition the transportation sector away from fossil fuels. Until such time, renewable fuel standards should not be weakened and may need to see their stringency increased, especially if flexible policies like the low carbon fuel standard are not quickly implemented and tightened."

The report also reinforces that the environmental benefits of blending renewable fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, are clear and well-documented. For instance, ethanol’s national 5 percent mandated content in gasoline helps reduce GHG emissions by 4.2 megatonnes annually, equivalent to 1 million cars being removed from Canada’s roads each year.

Beyond retaining the environmental benefits of the fuels, as the Conference Board notes, blend mandates also provide retail market access to low-carbon fuels for consumers, and a stable investment environment for the renewable fuels industry. 

At the end of the day, ethanol is the only low-carbon, renewable fuel alternative for gasoline available at commercial scale, meaning that retaining—and, ideally, increasing—blend mandates will help ensure the availability of low-carbon octane to the Canadian fuels market and realization of these benefits.
Canada is urgently developing policy that will allow it to meet its commitments in the Paris Accord. As a part of this process, it is impossible to ignore both the historic contribution of renewable fuel standards that set a volume-based benchmark, and the forward-looking analysis brought forward by groups such as the Conference Board of Canada that call for their use well into the future.
 


Author: Jim Grey
Chair, Renewable Industries Canada
CEO, IGPC Ethanol Inc.
519.765.2575
jgrey@igpc.ca