Will a national clean fuel standard actually reduce GHGs in Canada?

Canadian clean energy think-tanks such as the Pembina Institute & Clean Energy Canada are celebrating the federal government’s announcement of a national low carbon fuel standard, to be negotiated next year. However, I question whether a national low carbon fuel standard would actually decrease Canada’s GHGs. BC claims to have reduced its overall GHGs through a low carbon fuel standard. However, a recent study has shown that biofuels do not actually reduce GHGs when looked at from a life-cycle perspective (here is another investigation showing the same). I can see how it would seem that BC’s low carbon fuel standard reduced GHGs, if looked at from a non-LCA perspective, especially considering that, when measuring GHGs, almost nobody actually measures GHGs. Rather, they estimate GHGs based on IPCC guidelines of GHGs associated with different fuel types. If actual GHGs were measured, I wonder if it would be shown that BC has actually decreased its overall emissions. Moreover, Europe is facing quite the problem at the moment with increased logging in order to meet its low carbon fuel standards.

Unless safeguards are included in the national policy that require the use of second-generation biofuels (i.e. the use of waste product), and at that, biofuels that do actually have a lower GHG LCA footprint, I don’t see a reduction in our national GHGs happening. And I also see incentives for further deforestation and natural gas production (I do not see natural gas as a viable alternative, due to its high methane footprint). I worry that this national “clean” fuels standard is not based on rigorous science, and will simply be a huge cost-plus to Canadians, while having all sorts of other negative unintended consequences. I’m happy to hear other voices on this issue, especially if you can speak to the science of GHGs associated with biofuels.

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