Friday, December 22, 2006

Canadian biofuel announcement

OTTAWA Canada. A $345-million federal announcement requiring more gasoline to be made from corn and other crops is to come into effect.

The package will require so-called biofuel content of five per cent in gasoline by 2010 and two per cent in diesel fuel and heating oil by 2012, Environment Minister Rona Ambrose and Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl told a news conference Wednesday in Saskatoon. This is great news, although I would like to have seen the percentage rates at at least 15% for petrol and 10% for diesel.

The package includes $200 million to subsidize new factories to produce ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels, and $145 million for research and development.

Biofuels are produced from organic materials such as wheat, corn, sugarcane, canola and soy.

"We know that cleaner fuel means less pollution," Ambrose said. "Requiring the use of renewable fuels fulfils a commitment by our government."

She said the package will cut greenhouse gas emissions by about four megatonnes each year, equivalent to taking a million vehicles off the road. Not bad for a start.

Ambrose said the biofuels program provides strong reason to support the federal Clean Air Act, which is currently facing an uncertain fate before a Commons committee.

But there is continuing debate about whether biofuels produced from food crops provide real environmental benefit, after the energy and chemicals used in their production are considered.

It is also stated that the real benefits lie in cellulosic biofuel, made from waste products like wood chips and straw rather than food crops. He said Ottawa's $145 million allocation for research and development could help bring cellulosic ethanol to market. This is also a good idea.

John Godfrey, Liberal environment critic, said a Liberal government would push biofuels even harder than the Conservatives, setting a 10 per cent target for renewable content. That is the only positive thing I have ever heard from anyone in the Liberal party of Canada.

All and all it is a good idea for any government to invest in a bio fuel strategy. It is a good start for Canada.

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