Five ways to cut oil use in Ontario

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Toronto – In 20 years, Ontario drivers could be using 25 per cent less fuel than today, saving the province money and reducing environmental damage, according to a new report by the Pembina Institute.

The report, Bridging the Gulf, highlights the connection between the choices made by commuters in Ontario, and the negative impacts of oil extraction in North America in light of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and ongoing ecological impacts from oil sands development. It focuses exclusively on personal transportation — how Ontarians get around every day — and presents five key actions to reduce oil consumption based on policy changes that are already underway in the province.

“Ontario is in an excellent position — possibly the best in Canada — to start making significant reductions in transportation fuel use,” said Cherise Burda, lead author and Ontario Policy Director at the Pembina Institute. “It really is possible to put these policies into action. We have everything in place — from a fantastic transit plan that just requires funding, to an electricity grid that is becoming greener and can accommodate electric vehicles.”

Ontario consumes a third of all the refined petroleum in Canada, and almost all (93 per cent) of that oil is used by the transportation sector.

“Ontarians can be leaders in reducing the growing environmental and social impacts of oil sands production and offshore drilling,” said Simon Dyer, Director of Pembina’s Oil Sands Program. “Escalating global demand for oil is hastening oil production, weakening regulations and increasing risks. By actually reducing its demand, Ontario’s drivers can become part of the solution to reverse this trend.”

The total amount of oil leaked by BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil well could have fueled 20 per cent of Ontario’s vehicles for the duration of the spill. Pembina’s proposed five actions can save that same amount of oil and more. In 10 years, the recommended policy changes would keep $1 billion per year in the province — money that is currently spent on oil imports, but instead could be invested in jobs, transit or technology.

The greatest savings in the short term come from a package of “commuter choice” policies that include pay-as-you-drive auto insurance, live-where-you-work mortgage breaks, road pricing policies such as high-occupancy vehicle lane tolls, and a regional gas tax offset by incentives to take transit or ride a bike.

“It is all about choice,” Burda said. “Commuters need practical options that make it easier to leave the car at home, and worthwhile financial incentives to help those who can’t let go of the steering wheel choose cleaner cars.”

Bridging the Gulf presents the preliminary recommendations of a more detailed study Pembina is conducting to identify a broader and more comprehensive suite of personal transportation policies that can be implemented in Ontario to further reduce oil demand. The five actions outlined in this report represent feasible and existing personal transportation policies that the Ontario government can act on now to begin reducing the province’s consumption of oil today.

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