Alternative fuel could be available for next diesel shortage (knock on wood)

TORONTO — In the category of better late than never, the federal government is looking to alter current regulations allowing the Environment Minister more flexibility if dealing with a diesel fuel shortage.

At the suggestion of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, the feds published regulatory language in the Canada Gazette, which would amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) to give the Minister of Environment a more appropriate level of flexibility should similar circumstances arise in the future.

The CTA originally discussed the idea with the government during the diesel fuel shortage that almost crippled the trucking industry in early 2007. That shortage was followed, a year later, by another severe shortage in western Canada.

The impact of both shortages, says the CTA, might have been felt less acutely had the industry been able to use off-road fuel, like that used in rail, which contains higher levels of sulphur than the 15 ppm prescribed in federal emissions standards for trucks.

Most of the equipment on the road at that time was pre-2007 vintage where the higher sulphur content fuel could have been used.

CTA called for a temporary waiver from the CEPA to allow the higher sulphur fuel to be used by trucks, but there was no regulatory mechanism to do this, tying the hands of the environment minister, who is now Transport Minister John Baird.

While the option of being able to use higher sulphur diesel fuel in the time of crisis becomes less viable each passing year as the industry moves to the new smog-free (post-2007) engine technology, David Bradley, CEO of the CTA says, “Better late than never, I suppose.”

“The regulatory amendment could provide some relief were the industry to face another diesel shortage at least in the short/medium term,” he adds. “Let’s just hope we never again face the type of situation that made this an issue in the first place.”

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