How Ford’s pledge could turn Ontario into another fossil fuel state

Ontario’s Clean Air Act created the first Ontario electric vehicle policy in 2009. Five years later, it was seconded by the Ontario Green Energy Act. And all of this was done under Premier Dalton McGuinty. Since then, Ontario has set ambitious goals for emissions reductions and for increasing electric vehicle sales.

Ford’s plan, recently announced by CEO Jim Hackett, includes the same types of ambitious targets that Ontario’s government set in 2009. And now that Ford is his own CEO, one would hope that he’ll use that experience to help his company live up to them. Yet the government isn’t taking the same aggressive approach to electrification that Ford did. It wouldn’t be surprising if the government seeks to prop up oil-producing provinces with promises of gasoline tax hikes.

Ontario has a strong case to make to the federal government about how to contribute to making our world safer, more prosperous and clean. Almost two thirds of Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the states with the highest greenhouse gas emissions — California, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Vermont, Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Washington, DC — consume 47 percent of all carbon dioxide produced globally.

Electric vehicles not only use less fuel, they also use less energy to operate. That’s good news for everyone, including Canada’s environment. But it is worth noting that one way that electric vehicles increase global greenhouse gas emissions is because they emit more heat-trapping methane, a global warming pollutant.

Ontario’s goal of selling 500,000 electric vehicles by 2025 is very ambitious for a province that could consume up to 4 billion liters of gasoline per year. That is what Ford and GM did in a single year. And for their part, the automakers aren’t making any secret of their concerns about what going electric will mean for their bottom lines. In March, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce proposed a model that could accelerate Ontario’s transition to electric vehicles, reduce dependence on fossil fuels and drive the economy.

Ontario needs the support of the federal government in implementing the Clean Air Act with a clean investment fund and other essential infrastructure to help cover some of the cost of charging station infrastructure and longer-term loans for those who make the leap to electric-powered vehicles.

That is part of the reason why governments and the private sector have worked so hard in the past decade to develop the LCV charging infrastructure needed to make electrification a viable way of powering our vehicles. And it is why the federal government has pushed quickly and aggressively with $13 billion of federal, provincial and local funding for this purpose. As a result, our province is leading the way in EV deployment as a result of state and federal investments.

In the course of the company’s history, Ford has faced many disruptions and has risen to these challenges. Its legendary pioneering days under founder Henry Ford provide a template for the company’s ability to adjust and progress. For this reason, industry-watchers are looking to Ford as a case study.

The Ford company and its stakeholders should be applauded for setting a leadership example in Ontario. Its future success in the face of aggressive global changes will depend on how Ford responds to future challenges — whether it’s maintaining the momentum in Ontario and at the federal level or whether it drives itself into the ground.

Taylor Ritz is the president and CEO of the Clean Air League of Canada.

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