Clean Fuel Standard – What are the Costs?

March 19, 2021 | Suzanne Armstrong

Clean Fuel Standard – What are the Costs?

These pandemic times have made us much more aware of what is essential and what we can manage without. As we continue to be asked to keep social distance, one of the few pleasures left to us is enjoying our food. Many people have discovered anew the pleasures of cooking and growing food at home as a result.

We have already discussed predictions that the price of food is likely to rise this year in a previous commentary. But government policy can also have a significant impact on the costs of basic needs. The federal government is currently in the process of developing Clean Fuel Regulations. It is clear that this, too, will add to costs for consumers. In a direct way, this policy will increase the costs for fossil fuels used to heat homes and run personal vehicles. The CFFO is also concerned that this will increase the cost of food.

Food production (which still relies in many ways on the use of fossil fuels), food transportation and processing are likely to see increased costs. The policy will also create disruptions within the agriculture sector, as it creates new costs and new opportunities for different types of farming. This will likely result in lower production for some types of foods currently produced in Canada, while creating higher demand for others.

Increased costs for basic needs do not impact everyone the same. Lower-income households pay a larger percentage of their overall income on essentials like food and heating costs. They have less discretionary income, and often have less control, especially when renting, over the type of heating in their homes. Likewise, those living in rural areas often do not have access to lower carbon or green sources of home heating. Those living in more remote areas will see increased costs for transporting food more than those in well populated areas.

In our submission, the CFFO has asked the government to do an analysis on the likely impact on the cost of food that will result from the Clean Fuel Regulations. We have also asked for adjustments to the policy to reduce the cost burden on vulnerable populations. We also reminded government that farmers are already excellent stewards of the environment and warned against increased regulatory burden.

The best environmental policy is policy that helps, not harms, especially for our vulnerable populations. We should not attempt to improve our environment at the cost of our seniors, those living in remote or rural areas, and low-income households, urban and rural, who will be most significantly impacted by these increased costs for basic needs. In the current context, we must carefully and fully consider the disproportionate social impacts of policy decisions.

Suzanne Armstrong is Director of Policy & Research for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and CHLP Listowel.