Ontario's plan to double ethanol in gas draws supporters and critics in KW

The Ontario government's plan to double the minimum amount of ethanol in gasoline is drawing both supporters and critics in Kitchener-Waterloo.

Province wants to double amount of ethanol in gasoline from five to 10 per cent by 2020

Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris says the government needs to ensure money pumped into ethanol is the 'best use of our money to achieve our goals for a greener, cleaner, emission.' (Charlie Riedel/The Associated Press)

Residents in Kitchener-Waterloo are both hopeful and skeptical of the province's plans to double the minimum amount of ethanol in gasoline by 2020.

The provincial government announced the proposal on Monday. It would require fuel suppliers to put at least 10 per cent ethanol in their gasoline in order to reduce Ontario's greenhouse gas emissions by about two megatonnes per year. 

"This is an interesting and promising short-term strategy," said Sarah Burch, an associate professor in the department of geography and environmental management at the University of Waterloo.

"In Ontario, a third of our greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation so it is absolutely crucial that we develop not just one, but many policies to reduce those emissions," she said. 

However, Burch also said the plan doesn't address the "fundamental challenges" of climate change. 

"Increasing the amount of ethanol in gasoline actually addresses none of those underlying, deep drivers of transportation emissions," Burch said. "We need to get people out of cars that have internal combustion engines and into mass public transit or electric vehicles." 

'Best use of our money'

Michael Harris, the MPP for the Conestoga-Kitchener riding and the transportation critic for the Progressive Conservatives, questioned the plan's effectiveness and said he doesn't think Ontario "should put all eggs in one basket." 

"Of course we're still trying to figure out why the green commercial program excluded hydrogen and propane," Harris said. 

Harris also said taxpayers would have to pay more in subsidies.

"The current Liberal government has pumped $500 million of public money into ethanol," Harris said.

"We need to make sure that's the best use of our money to achieve our goals for a greener, cleaner, emission."   

With files from the CBC's Adetayo Bero.