By Trent Gow
Yesterday the Wynne government proposed to double the amount of ethanol in gas used by automobiles from 5% to 10%. Remember that ethanol is a simple alcohol made from the fermentation of a high starch vegetable or fruit – usually corn in Canada.
The ostensible reason for this aggressive step is for Ontario to come closer to achieving its elusive greenhouse gas reduction targets. And there is no question that the increased use of ethanol will help in this regard. The Minister estimated that the proposed changes will reduce carbon emissions by about two mega tonnes per year – the equivalent of taking about 130,000 cars off the roads. But this comes at far too high a cost to Ontario taxpayers.
Consider among other very pertinent factors hidden by the government that adding ethanol to gasoline lowers gas fuel economy. Expert analysis demonstrates that raising the ethanol content in gas from 5% to 10% will require Ontario drivers in total to increase their fuel consumption by 1.65% which equates to an extra 250 million litres per year. At current gas prices that's a total extra cost to Ontarians of about $300 million per year – not to mention the increased greenhouse gas emissions from that extra 250 million litres!
Equally outrageous is that the Ontario government subsidizes the ethanol industry massively. Ethanol producers have received nearly $500 million from our Province since 2007, when then-Premier McGuinty mandated 5% ethanol content in gas and created the 10-year Ontario Ethanol Growth Fund to prop up producers. Did I mention that these producers are the number one donor to the Ontario Liberal party?
Two other quick troubling facts are that the energy used in producing ethanol actually exceeds the energy that the refined product produces – again with negative greenhouse gas consequences. And using corn for fuel adds significantly to the demand for and therefore the cost of this product and to the cost of many other food products that contain corn starch.
In a recent report Canada's prestigious, independent Ecofiscal Commission concluded that using ethanol in gas comes at far too great a cost to taxpayers and the economy. The Commission recommends governments phase out their ethanol content rules. Instead, Premier Wynne is doing the exact opposite. Yet another energy fiasco!