Ontario stalls in conserving transportation fuels

The Highway 401 / 402 interchange near London, Ontario. (Photo via Wikipedia.)

Highway 401 near London, Ontario. (Photo via Wikipedia.)

Toronto – Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller says the Ministry of Energy should lose some of its responsibility for conservation because of its inaction on transportation fuels.

The Environmental Commissioner today released Volume Two of his Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report, Building Momentum: Results. The report reviews the progress the government has made in increasing energy efficiency and reducing the use of electricity, oil, propane, natural gas and transportation fuels in the province. The report also contains the conservation results for local distribution companies serving communities across the province.

The Ontario government promised bold action on transportation fuels in 2007. It signed a Memorandum of Understanding with California to develop a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), and committed to bringing about a 10% reduction in the carbon intensity of the province’s transportation fuels by 2020. Key to meeting this commitment would be the introduction of the LCFS.

An LCFS would require producers to phase in a 10% reduction by 2020 in the amount of carbon in transportation fuels they sold in Ontario. This would lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and help meet the province’s climate change targets. “But six years after the Memorandum of Understanding was signed,” says Miller, “there’s been absolutely no progress on bringing in an LCFS for the province.”

The report says that by the end of 2012, California used its LCFS to replace 6.2% of the total gasoline and diesel fuel it used with lower-carbon alternatives, such as ethanol, natural gas, biodiesel and electricity. “But in Ontario,” says Miller, “staff at the Ministry of Energy have insisted an LCFS is not technically feasible, and questioned its environmental benefits.”

The Commissioner recommends that responsibility for developing an LCFS be taken away from the Ministry of Energy and transferred to the Ministry of the Environment, arguing that this this would increase the likelihood of having an LCFS in Ontario. “The Ministry of the Environment has already made sure that Ontario’s gasoline contains 5% ethanol, and is now working on a plan to reduce the greenhouse gases produced from diesel fuels sold within the province,” says Miller. “These are building blocks towards meeting the goal of a 10% reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 2020.”

In his report, the Commissioner congratulates the Ontario government for meeting its target of a 20% reduction in the amount of electricity it uses in the buildings it owns, but is skeptical that the government can show the same sort of success elsewhere. “I question whether local distribution companies will be able to meet their 2014 electricity conservation targets and reduce peak demand by 1,330 megawatts, and overall consumption by 6 billion kilowatt-hours,” says Miller. “And there’s been little progress in the conservation of transportation fuels, which in 2011 accounted for 36% of the energy used by Ontarians, and 34% of the province’s emissions of GHG’s.”