New fuel regulations aim to reduce emissions from Canada’s freight industry

With freight transportation producing approximately 10 percent of Canada’s total emissions, on June 14, Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister announced   new carbon-pollution regulations for heavy-duty vehicles, defined as  “ school buses, transport tractors and trailers, garbage trucks, delivery vans, and larger pick-up trucks”. The regulations begin in 2020, and become increasingly stringent with each passing year – with a goal to reduce carbon pollution by approximately 6 million tonnes a year by 2030.

state of freight coverThe Pembina Institute welcomes the regulations here, with reference to its detailed report on the issue:  State of Freight ( June 2017),  and also an OpEd from Policy Options in April 2018, “On vehicle emissions standards, it’s time Canada divorced the U.S.” .   “McKenna touts new climate pollution controls for large trucks and buses”  in the National Observer (June 14) includes a discussion of the Canada-U.S. alignment over fuel standards.

In May, the Conference Board of Canada released  Greening Freight: Pathways to GHG Reductions in the Trucking Sector, which recommends several ways to help reduce emissions from freight transport,  including the adoption of established fuel-saving technologies, carbon pricing, and disruptive technologies such as electric zero-emission and driverless trucks. The report is available from this link (free, registration required).

Also on this topic, an article by researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Clean Energy Research Centre appeared in  the April 2018 issue of Energy Policy“Electrification of road freight transport: Policy implications in British Columbia” concludes that all-electric  trucks could  reduce 64% of the emissions from road freight transport in the province by 2040, if 65% of trucks ran on 100% hydroelectric power. However, the demand created would overwhelm the supply available – therefore, the authors call for new policies “to support diversified renewable electricity generation and low-carbon pathways. For example, carbon capture and sequestration coupled with provincial reserves of natural gas can enable low-carbon hydrogen production and decrease the electricity requirements for zero-emission vehicles in B.C.”  An article on the CBC website summarizes the academic article.


Low Carbon Fuel Standards vs. Renewable Fuel Standards

A new report from Smart Prosperity (formerly Sustainable Prosperity) contrasts the advantages and features of a Renewable Fuel Standard –  in force federally and in five provinces – with a Low Carbon Fuel Standard, in force in Canada only in British Columbia . The discussion is timely, given that the federal government and the province of Ontario are both considering Low Carbon Fuel Standard policies. In “ How a Low Carbon Fuel Standard could reduce your GHG footprint without you even noticing”,  Smart Prosperity answers “what it is” and “what it does” questions;  its Policy Brief   discusses the complex questions of policy design, “ particularly around regional impacts, equity concerns, cost effectiveness, and innovation impacts”.  Read also the Ontario Discussion paper: Developing a modern renewal fuel standard for gasoline in Ontario   . The federal government posted a  clean fuel standard Backgrounder  about its goals (November 2016), which include using life cycle analysis of fuel production, and  extending coverage beyond transportation fuels.  Other jurisdictions which use a LCFS include California, Oregon,  and the state of Washington.

UPDATE:  On February 23, Friends of the Earth released a discussion paper, Working Towards A Clean Fuel Strategy for Canada:Key QuestionsThe subtitle says a lot:  How to make a Canadian Clean Fuel Strategy more than a cosmetic exercise to sanitize the image of the oil industry. Noting that  Environment and Climate Change Canada has provided only vague information so far in its consideration of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard,  Friends of the Earth states its concern that an inadequate policy could greenwash the use of fossil fuels and thus prolong their use ,  rather than supporting a just transition off fossil fuels and  stimulating the development of alternative fuels.   The discussion paper is a thorough  review of past experience with biofuel and ethanol policies .

Landmark Clean Energy Legislation passed in California

The Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015, (Senate Bill 350) was signed into law on October 7th, 2015,  requiring the state to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, as well as double energy efficiency in homes, offices and factories. It also sets up a framework for an integrated electricity grid, and encourages utilities to install more charging stations for electric vehicles. The Natural Resources Defense Council called it “one of the most significant climate and energy bills in California’s history”. An earlier version of Bill 350 had been defeated – see the New York Times (Sept. 10) “California Democrats Drop Plan for 50 Percent Oil Cut”. Using regulatory authority instead, on September 25, the California Air Resources Board approved the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which requires reduction of the amount of carbon generated by gas and diesel fuels by at least 10 percent by 2020. See “California Says ‘Yes!’ to Clean Fuels and ‘No!’ to Oil Industry Lobbyists”.