Ontario has become the first province to require 15% renewable content in gasoline, but drivers will have to wait some time before it becomes the norm at the pump. The 15% standard, known as E15, won’t kick in until 2030. That’s a concession to the fuel industry, which had objected to Ontario’s original proposal to implement E15 by 2025.
Under the new Cleaner Transportation Fuels: Renewable Content Requirements for Gasoline and Diesel Fuels Regulation (O. Reg. 663/20), the bio-based content of gasoline will remain at its current level of 10% through 2024. It will rise to 11% in 2025, 13% in 2028, and 15% in 2030.
The compliance period for 10% renewable content in 2020 has also been extended to 2020-2021. The 10% requirement is new for 2020. Extending the compliance period to two years is intended to help the fuel industry compensate for the unexpected disruption in fuel consumption patterns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A related guideline — Technical Guideline: Cleaner Transportation Fuels — will require the greenhouse gas intensity of renewable content, calculated on a lifecycle basis, to be half that of gasoline by 2030. Currently, that requirement sits at 45%.
The minimum renewable content for diesel remains at 4%.
Ontario says the gradual increase in renewable content in gasoline will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while not affecting the price of gasoline at the pump. There is, however, a division of opinion on the impact of minimum renewable content requirements.
A 2016 report by Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission argued that renewable content mandates had only a small impact and carried a hefty price per megatonne of emissions reduced. That claim was vigorously disputed by the biofuels industry, however.
A report, also in 2016, from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario concluded that E15 would have a positive impact on Ontario’s emissions, but worried about its potential impact on Ontario agriculture — encouraging corn production at the expense of natural ecosystems.
The Ontario government is counting on it. “This change will also help attract investment in ethanol production, create jobs in rural communities and assist the biofuel and agriculture sectors in their long-term economic recovery from COVID-19,” said Environment, Conservation and Parks Minister Jeff Yurek in a statement.