Canadian Memo: E85 No Greener Than E10

Dustin stockton
by Dustin stockton

Our friendly neighbors to the north are starting to cope with a difficult and embarrassing reality. reports on a briefing note prepared for Canadian Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt warning that hundreds of millions of dollars spent subsidizing e85 Flex Fuel technology have been a colossal failure. Not the least of which is the fact that a complete lack of convenient fueling infrastructure has resulted in people using “dirty” gasoline. According to the memo, obtained under public information laws:

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

Translation: Government subsidies of Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) have been wildly successful at producing cars that can run on e85. The problem is that Canadians (including government fleets) are filling their government sponsored e85 FFVs with good old fashioned gasoline. And though lack of infrastructure is a huge factor (there are only four E85 stations in all of Canada), there’s no reason to believe more subsidies for more infrastructure will have Canadians flocking to the E85 pump. After all, the corn juice costs more than gasoline (despite subsidies) and returns worse miles per gallon. The conclusion at Natural Resources Canada:

The regulated mandate for renewable alternatives to gasoline will deliver an equivalent GHG emission reduction regardless of whether it is through the use of E10 or E85 ethanol blends

Which makes a lot more sense than just subsidizing more pumps. Because when your subsidies won’t work without their own subsidies, you know you’re in trouble.

Dustin stockton
Dustin stockton

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  • Kurt B Kurt B on Oct 05, 2009

    Just think how much it costs GM et al to slap those E85 stickers on each vehicle.

  • Benders Benders on Oct 05, 2009

    E85 vehicles are less about reducing GHG and more about future-proofing. Gasoline supplies will diminish and run out and we will need a new fuel. Ethanol is the best bet right now. But without any vehicles to consume it, why would anyone bother producing any ethanol? Corn ethanol is not a long-term solution. But it is a bridge to more efficient methods of production and a good use for the US's excess corn.

  • YellowDuck YellowDuck on Oct 06, 2009

    E85 is kind of stupid, actually. Essentially any car currently made can run fine on E10, and there is no hope of ever making enough grain ethanol to get above about 10% EtOH on average in North America. So why bother with the added expense and complexity of E85 cars and E85 dispensing equipment? Once cellulosic ethanol comes along maybe we can get up to E20 in all of our gasoline in Canada. That's useful progress, especially if it's combined with enhanced fuel efficiency overall. There's just no need to go to E85, or even pure biodiesel for that matter. Blend the biofuels at lower levels withe petroleum, and everything is simple.

  • Tparkit Tparkit on Oct 06, 2009

    The current push behind ethanol in Canada is born of the "conservative" government's eternal drive to shift to the left of the Liberal Party. "No one will out-Green us!", these CINO phonies seem to shout. The list of their un-conservative actions is long and growing, and their inaction on campaign promises legendary. When an opportunity to strike a progressivist posture arrives, the current government moves quickly to stake out the rhetorical high ground - hundreds of millions of $$ cost be damned. At this moment, their plan is to mandate that starting next year all gasoline in Canada must be 10% E-crap. That's because Canadians are not buying the stuff right now, so it's necessary to force the citizenry to goosestep into the future.