With the province’s new carbon tax expected to cost Calgary Transit at least $3.75 million over the next two years, city bureaucrats may soon study if switching buses to renewable diesel is a good idea.
Jeff Brookman, with Calgary-based renewable fuels company Candaxa Energy, spoke to city councillors at a transportation and transit committee meeting Wednesday about converting recently living biomass into fuel, a carbon negative process he said would be exempt from the carbon levy.
“Is this new technology? No, it’s been around for quite a while,” Brookman said. “The cities of San Fransico and Oakland, California adopted this type of fuel in the fall fo 2015.”
Brookman said if Calgary Transit were to switch to renewable diesel, operating costs would be reduced and a 90 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions could be achieved.
The innovative idea caught the attention of councillor Gian-Carlo Carra, who brought forward a successful amendment asking administration to spend a few months studying “a potential pilot project to field test synthetic diesel fuel in Calgary Transit buses.”
Giving renewable diesel a try is an initiative the city’s transportation boss also applauded.
“What I like about it is it’s not a solution, if you will, to our greenhouse gas issues in the long term, but it’s a great transition strategy to reduce emissions,” said Mac Logan, the city’s general manager of transportation.
Committee chair Shane Keating said the move most likely wouldn’t save money, but would help the environment.
The pitch to possibly study synthetic diesel fuel in Calgary Transit’s fleet, which will now go before council as a whole for final approval, came as council discussed what the province’s recently implemented carbon levy means for transit.
Calgary Transit expects to pay at least $1.5 million more in fuel costs this year and $2.25 million in 2018 because of the carbon tax, according to an annual RouteAhead update presented to the committee on Wednesday.
The added cost, which the report states is equivalent to 15,000 to 22,500 hours of transit service, comes as Calgary Transit’s revenue has dropped $17 million amid lower ridership and fewer advertising contracts.
Councillors expressed frustration that municipal transit services are not exempt from the NDP government’s carbon tax.
“It is very low per ride but over the year it’s a few million dollars,” Keating said of the carbon tax.
“Every time you add a few million dollars, it just means how do they (Calgary Transit) balance the budget? There’s two options: cut services or raise fares.”
Ward 11 Coun. Andre Chabot said the municipal government needs to push back against the provincial levy.
“They’re imposing a tax on us. Meanwhile, we’re doing things to advance their objectives but we’re getting no credit for the positive stuff we’re doing and we’re getting charged for all the negative stuff,” he said.