It is fitting that a central element of Canada’s low-carbon policy has stumbled.
The federal Liberals have been talking for six years about imposing clean fuel standards, and they’ve finally done it — in a chaotic way that perfectly suits the politics of these regulations.
The new rules are designed to bring about fundamental changes in how we fuel our cars and trucks, and how oil and gas producers operate.
They were somehow made public in the middle of last week to those who knew enough to ask the federal bureaucracy for the details. The Star obtained a copy of the 229-page document, but the failed publication of the regulations means the government has had to scramble to speed up the official publication of the rules, as well as quickly put together its analysis of what will happen to the economy and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions.
They are both deployed with bells and whistles on Wednesday.
For now, we know that the amount of carbon in the petrol we put in our cars will have to drop by 15% by 2030. This is stricter than the 13% the government originally announced in its plan settlement a few years ago.
But let’s not jump to conclusions that the new rules push harder on climate change.
For one thing, the impact assessment will likely show the new rules will reduce emissions by around 25 megatonnes by 2030. That’s less than the 30 megatonnes the Liberals first promised in 2016 – even though tackling climate change has become more urgent now than it was then. , and even though Canada’s emissions targets are more ambitious now than they were then.
That’s because over six years of politics and lobbying, the Liberals narrowed the scope of the clean fuel standard to target only gasoline and diesel.
It is certain that clean fuel regulations will interact with the carbon pricing system and will likely amplify the movement towards the purchase of electric vehicles and investment in cleaner fuels. And yes, we need all the tools we can get to move away from fossil fuels and into more sustainable energy. Overall, Canada needs to cut 223 megatonnes of carbon by 2030, compared to 2020.
But it’s far from clear that the new fuel requirements meet the original goals set when the Liberals were new to power.
“This is the most complicated regulation we’ve ever issued,” said a federal official.
Either way, the emission reductions will not be immediate.
Although the rules are already in place at present, the system will not be operational until the end of 2023. This gives emissions producers regulated by the new rules – mainly refineries and the oil and gas sector – more a year to raise credits that they can now accumulate with companies involved in cleaner fuels.
Then they can use those credits to drive for a while and adjust to the new regime before they have to start cutting carbon in fuel seriously.
But if all goes according to plan, ordinary people will start to see changes within a few years, especially in the types of cars they will be tempted to buy and the way they operate those cars.
Investment and ingenuity should flow fairly steadily into biofuels with the certainty that regulation provides, says Andrea Kent, board member of Renewable Industries Canada. Ethanol can already be used quite easily in conventional cars, and in higher percentages than today. Aircraft and heavy equipment are on the industry’s radar.
“It’s something the market is very comfortable with,” she said in an interview.
Of course, the new regime is a confusing element to add to the mix with high inflation, as prices at the pump soar, and the world wants more oil and gas from Canada to offset energy from Russia. . Conservatives have opposed the clean fuel standard in the past, arguing it would drive up gas prices.
Liberals will say they have to walk and chew gum at the same time. Canada must indeed do what it can to replace Russian oil and gas now. But in the medium term, Canadian producers and consumers need to switch to more sustainable energy, and that’s what clean fuel regulations will incentivize.
And since ethanol doesn’t cost more than traditional gasoline at this point, filling up at the pump probably won’t cost more on that front, though diesel may go up a bit, according to the renewable energy industry. .
The real tragedy is that it took six years to get to the point where we need two more before we see any significant change. Imagine how different the current energy security crisis and economic war on Russia would be if we were all less dependent on fossil fuels and more able to quickly adapt to sustainable energy.
The chaos in drafting regulations is minor compared to this kind of disruption.
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