Bill C-33 would allow the government to ensure all gasoline produced for domestic consumption has an average renewable fuel content of five per cent by 2010 and that diesel and heating oil have an average renewable fuel content of two per cent by 2012. The motion, carried by a vote of 173 to 64, must be debated in the Senate before passing into law.
It’s the size of the majority that bothers me. And the Senate is unlikely to do be much different.
There are 20 biofuel plants in operation or under construction in Canada, which will use more than a million tonnes of wheat and nearly 2.5 million tonnes of corn annually.
And, of course, the people who are most pleased about this are not even mentioned. Canada’s farmers. Rural votes have always been much more valuable than urban votes, and though farmers are doing well now that is a bit of a change form previous years. And there is the continuing power of myth – that Canada is mostly rural and agricultural.
On the other hand we also know what the US ethanol mandate has down to distort grain prices, and controversial role it has been playing in its contribution to world hunger and high food prices. The obscenity of fat Americans filling their gargantuan SUVs while poor little kids go hungry has a “made for tv” quality about it that the ethanol lobby spin doctors have not been able to erase.
Mostly, for me, it is the dubious science. There is little doubt in my mind that in the full cycle analysis which includes the impact of fertilisers and the use of fuel to farm, transport and process the crop that the claimed savings in ghg emissions are at best overstated, and at worse the reverse of the truth.
I would like to blame the Conservatives but obviously I can’t. The lobbyists have worked both sides of the house successfully. Renewables would be a good idea if we had a source that was based on what is otherwise a waste product – which can be the case for both ethanol and biodiesel but at present, isn’t. Corn and wheat are food crops. There is plenty of woodwaste and straw – and land that could grow switch grass that would not support food crops. But there are no industrial sized plants producing cellulosic ethanol. It would be nice to think that Mr Harper might hold off on the implementation of this Bill until there is, but it seems extremely unlikely.