The Province of Ontario has just issued draft policy on renewable fuel standards, Developing a modern renewable fuel standard for gasoline in Ontario (“RFS Policy”) which may well create the dynamic conditions for innovation in the fuels sector that are long overdue.

Performance is 5% GHG Emissions Reductions

The RFS Policy sets a “performance-based” standard for renewable fuels without any particular allegiance to any particular renewable fuel additive, such as RFS stalwart ethanol. The current provincial Climate Change Action Plan includes a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline by five per cent by 2020. The RFS Policy adopts this standard.

The 5% GHG target reduction isn’t measured at the tailpipe alone, but is an assessment of the lifecycle of the fuel from “well to wheel”, assessing emissions from extraction to processing, distribution and end-use combustion. This is the formula the province has already adopted for its Greener Diesel regulations.

Gasoline Alone Subject to RFS Policy

Notably, gasoline is the only fuel included within the RFS Policy and the existing renewable content required under the Ethanol in Gasoline regulation is unchanged – though subject to performance assessment. That said, gasoline remains a principal culprit of GHG emissions from transportation fuels in the province and the market remains sufficiently large (in spite of the growth of electric cars) to create real innovation in the various stages of the fuel production process.

Municipal Solid Waste Now Qualifies for RFS

In a relatively unheralded change to the Ethanol in Gasoline Regulation, the province recently granted renewable status to fuel additives generated from municipal solid waste (MSW) based upon their demonstrated bio-based source content of the post-diverted feedstock (read: organics).

Depending upon how the GHG assessment is conducted for MSW, this may result in a substantial competitive advantage to MSW-fuel additives in achieving the gasoline emissions GHG goals. It also lends legitimacy to the Energy-from-Waste sector that continues to struggle for recognition as environmentally-beneficial.

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With a change to performance-based standards assessed on the fuel lifecycle basis, opportunities will abound for proven-GHG reduction fuel production processes. It only remains for industry to bridge the innovation gap.