Manitoba truckers brace for flawed biodiesel rule

WINNIPEG — In just a few weeks Manitoba will become the first province in Canada to mandate biodiesel. And, not surprisingly, the region’s truckers are none too happy.

All diesel fuel sold in the province as of Nov. 1 must contain a B2 average (2 percent biodiesel), Energy Minister Jim Rondeau recently announced.

The move is aimed at boosting the agricultural sector while "reducing greenhouse gas emissions," although the argument that biodiesel reduces carbon footprints has been hotly debated in recent years

While biodiesel producers and farming lobbies like the plan, Manitoba’s truckers say it has major flaws, which disproportionately impacts their industry.

One common misconception regarding the rule is that fuel retailers will be required to sell biodiesel directly at the pump. As is the case in B.C., which is likely kicking-off its B5 mandate in January 2010, fuel companies need only to produce a provincial "pool average" of B2.

Effectively, as this exclusive Today’s Trucking feature revealed earlier this year, that means that the actual blend at the pump is left free to vary based on customer demand. So, some customers with buying power can demand zero B content, leaving the supplier no choice but to deliver blends higher than B2 in other regions. 

If truckers have to fill up with biodiesel, they should at least know
the blend they’re pumping into their tanks, argues MTA.

Higher blends of biodiesel are known to cause gelling and start-up issues in older engines operating in colder climates, like say, most of Manitoba throughout much of the year.

At the very least, retail fuel pumps should be properly labeled to reveal the volume of the biodiesel being sold, says Bob Dolyniuk, general manager of the Manitoba Trucking Association. But, so far, there’s been no indication that the government will implement any labeling requirements.

"That leaves carriers unaware of the percent of biodiesel they are purchasing," he tells todaystrucking.com. "This may not seem as serious a concern with B2 blends, however, when the mandate moves to B5, and with the averaged mandate, the level of concern changes."

The MTA has also insisted (to little effect) that Manitoba introduce an on-going quality assurance program at point of production and point of sale and has asked that other modes of transport, such as rail, must also be made to comply with the rule.

But those aren’t the only reasons carriers don’t like the policy as it’s currently written. As part of the mandate, the province is replacing the current consumer-based fuel tax exemption on biodiesel with a 14-cent-per-litretax break for producers instead.

"One also has to wonder," asks Dolyniuk, "where the 14-cent per-liter incentive to producers is coming from? Fuel tax revenues?"
While the MTA says these recommendations were reasonable and realistic, its members "were seriously disappointed that they appear to have been ignored," says Dolyniuk. "Hopefully there are some impending announcements that will disprove this."

We’ll see in six weeks. 

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