Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/10/2009 (2823 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Moreover, government officials have warned Raitt that giving automakers credits toward new fuel efficiency standards by making cars that can use environmentally friendly E85 fuel will not actually reduce emissions because those cars will never actually use the 'green' fuel and will continue to use regular gasoline.
"The point the document is making is fairly straightforward -- promoting E85 has no environmental benefits," said Matthew Bramley, climate change director for the advocacy group Pembina Institute.
Fuel that contains 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent gasoline is generally referred to as E85 fuel. While almost any car engine can run on E10 fuel -- gasoline with 10 per cent ethanol -- only specially modified vehicles can use E85 fuel.
Ethanol is a renewable source of energy derived from corn or other plant products.
The Conservative government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars subsidizing the production of ethanol or offering rebates to consumers to buy E85 vehicles -- but the briefing note says none of that money has or will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"The chance for reducing emissions through changing fuels is very limited at best," said Bramley.
Cars and light trucks that can use either E85 fuel or regular gas are known generically as flex fuel vehicles or FFVs. The briefing note was written in March and obtained under federal access to information laws. Parts of the note have been blacked out.
In the note, Raitt is cautioned about the "implications" of promoting the use of E85 fuel.
The federal government has spent millions of dollars on rebates to consumers who buy FFVs and are allowing carmakers to earn special 'green' credits for manufacturing FFVs -- even though there are just four gas stations in the entire country that sell the special E85 blend.
The memo to Raitt notes "stakeholders, including fuel providers, auto manufacturers and governments, are currently seeking to claim greenhouse gas emission reductions from the production and use of ethanol blends and FFVs."
But the note, which is signed by Cassie Doyle, the deputy minister in Raitt's department, says the government needs to be cautious in advancing those claims, advising Raitt that work must be done to "carefully assess the implications of actively promoting the production and use of E85 in Canada."
E85 fuel is available in only four locations, so the 300,000 or so FFVs now on the road use regular gasoline, which, when burned in a car engine, is a major contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions that causes climate change.
"Given that E85 (fuel) is not sold in significant quantities, these credits (to manufacturers) are not tied to actual GHG emission reductions because Canada's FFVs are fuelled almost exclusively with gasoline," the briefing note says. Indeed, Doyle's memo notes manufacturers are planning to increase production of FFVs even though "there is no evidence that substantial amounts of E85 fuel will be available to Canadian consumers in the short-term or medium-term."
The federal government has announced that, by next year, all fuel sold in Canada must contain at least five per cent ethanol.
-- Canwest News Service