Law & Order

Canada Approves SEMA-Requested Lead Fuel Exemption for Competition Vehicles

Environment Canada issued a SEMA-supported final rule to indefinitely extend an exemption allowing the use of leaded gasoline in competition motor vehicles. The exemption has been renewed several times since it was first established in 1996. SEMA had previously opposed efforts to permanently terminate the exemption and effectively ban racing vehicles using leaded fuel. The new rule recognizes the relationship between the Canadian and U.S. racing industries and adopts a consistent environmental approach to leaded fuel use.

In comments to Environment Canada, SEMA identified a number of reasons to continue the exemption, including:

  • In the United States, the Clean Air Act specifically exempts leaded fuels for competition-use vehicles;
  • The North American racing industry is fully integrated, with both competitors and spectators crossing country borders to participate in and attend events;
  • There are an estimated 165 racing facilities operating in Canada that support thousands of jobs and generate millions of dollars of economic benefit for local businesses and communities;
  • Although there are fuel alternatives for some racing vehicles, the drag-racing industry still requires leaded gasoline; and
  • While the racing industry continues to move towards long-term independence from leaded fuel, the amount used in Canada is miniscule when compared to total leaded fuel use: 2% by competition vehicles versus 98% by piston engine aircraft. To put the issue in perspective, 99.8% of gasoline used in Canada is already lead free.

Environment Canada will conduct a five-year review and revisit the exemption issue if necessary based on science, technology and fuel replacement developments. Meanwhile, Environment Canada will work with the racing industry to encourage a voluntary reduction or phase-out of leaded racing fuel.

For more information, contact Steve McDonald at