Tone down biodiesel mandate, truckers tell rulemakers
SURREY, B.C. — The BC government and Ottawa need to drastically change the way they plan to roll out their mandatory biodiesel programs or risk watching truckers shut down their rigs, say two of the nation’s largest trucking groups.
In a letter, the BCTA urged Blair Lekstrom, minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, to plug up holes in the Renewable Fuel Requirement, which requires that the entire provincial diesel pool contain an average of 5 percent biodiesel annually starting in January 2010.
The problem with the rule, as exclusively reported in the April issue of Today’s Trucking (also available online as this week’s web feature) is that the actual blend at the pump is left free to vary between the stated value based on customer demand.
Not surprisingly, some large commercial customers with market leverage will be able to demand little to no biodiesel content, leaving the supplier no choice but to comply with the B5 average rule by dumping biodiesel blends higher than B5 onto customers with less buying power. Truckers come to mind.
That’s a big problem for carriers in colder climates, where notorious cold flow and gelling issues associated with higher biodiesel blends on older engines can be a major issue. Also, most engines are not approved for blends higher than B5 and truckers who unknowingly fill up with B10 or B15 could find themselves with warranty dilemmas.
So, BCTA is asking that if the government insists on going through with the RFR, that it at least moves away from an "average pool" requirement and ensures that no blend higher than B5 is sent to market; and that biodiesel is appropriately labeled and sold only when seasonally appropriate.
At the same time, the Canadian Trucking Alliance is asking for similar assurances from Ottawa, which is committed to a B2 standard nation-wide.
CTA says that the feds are well aware of the supply-side concerns from truckers and petroleum producers. Officials have also been told by engine manufacturers that they cannot provide assurances that biodiesel won’t expose truckers to engine problems, increased costs and possibly the voiding of engine warranties.
"Only the consumer, in this case the trucking industry, will remain exposed unless the regulatory approach to the mandate addresses our key concerns," CTA chief David Bradley said in a press release. "Being told by the biodiesel producers that we can sue them if their product is not of sufficient quality to work in our engines is of no solace. The industry does not comprise thousands of small companies who will not have the resources to launch such action, nor should they have to be put in this position."
CTA says it has been trying to meet with federal environment minister Jim Prentice to resolve these issues. (Click here for the complete list of assurances CTA is seeking).
And although weeks ago B.C. officials agreed that many of these issues need to be addressed, BCTA insists that the province so far continues to show "extreme reluctance to touch the main tenet of the RFR. And while it ignores truckers’ concerns, the government has chosen to exempt the railways from the mandate.
BCTA suggests that the government’s failure to respond means that it "accepts full responsibility for the negative financial, economic and safety consequences of an overly aggressive biodiesel mandate."
CTA says it lauds a biodiesel mandate in theory. The group is even willing to accept a clause that would allow for the level of the biodiesel blend to increase once engine makers guarantee such blends would not create operability, durability and warranty issues on new engines. However, the mandate "needs to be done right," says Bradley.
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