Canada Pushes Ahead With Biodiesel Plan Regardless of Trucking Industry Concerns

By Timothy Cama, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Feb. 21 print edition of Transport Topics.

The Canadian government announced it is pushing forward with its plan for a national 2% biodiesel mandate, setting July as its implementation date despite truckers’ concerns.

Under the plan that Environment Minister Peter Kent announced Feb. 10, on-road diesel and heating oil sold in the country must contain 2% biofuels by July 1.

“These regulations are one element of our broader renewable fuels strategy, and they will bring significant environmental benefits,” Kent said at an event announcing the mandate in Hamilton, Ontario.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance argued that the mandate would provide “very little environmental benefit” and result in major costs to trucking and the country as a whole.

“This new fuel standard could pose significant operating challenges for both light- and heavy-duty users of diesel engines in winter conditions, along with creating possible engine warranty issues,” David Bradley, CEO of CTA, said in a statement following Kent’s announcement.

CTA cited a study released last year that concluded the cost of a 2% mandate would add up to C$4.5 billion between 2011 and 2035, while the benefits would be worth only about C$860 million.

“The report makes clear that consumers . . . would ultimately be burdened with the incremental costs of a biodiesel mandate . . . with very little [greenhouse gas] reduction benefit,” CTA said in the statement.

The study was conducted by ÉcoRessources Consultants, an independent consultant, on behalf of Environment Canada, the country’s environmental policy agency.

Canada requires that gasoline contain 5% renewable fuels, a regulation that took effect in December.

Kent estimated the fuel mandates will be equivalent to taking 1 million vehicles off the road annually.

“We take our responsibility to do what we can to ensure a cleaner, greener future very seriously,” he said.

By creating demand for biofuels, the mandate also will create jobs and benefit rural communities, Kent said.

The government will publish the regulation in the coming weeks. At that point, a 60-day comment period will begin.

Canadian truckers are not opposed to using an alternative fuel, “so long as it works in our engines, is in plentiful supply, is affordable and won’t impair our engine warranties,” Bradley said.

Oregon’s 2% biodiesel mandate caused problems for some carriers last winter, the first winter of its implementation, said Bob Russell, vice president of government affairs at Oregon Trucking Associations.

When carriers stored the biodiesel blend in above-ground tanks, “The biodiesel separated and congealed, making it impossible to pump fuel from the storage tanks,” Russell said.

That winter, Oregon’s legislature amended the law to allow carriers to dilute the biodiesel with additives in cold weather.

As for warranties, truck makers allow biodiesel in all concentrations mandated under state laws without voiding the warranty, Russell said.

The United States does not have a national biodiesel mandate for retail sales. In addition to Oregon, biodiesel mandates have been imposed in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Washington, according to the National Biodiesel Board. All state mandates are for 2% biodiesel except Minnesota’s, which is 5%.