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Renewable fuel regulations

Canada hasn’t exactly been embracing
renewable fuels. For the most part it’s been regular petroleum or
nothing, but it appears we have been quietly—and slowly—moving
forward with efforts to encourage their use.

The announcement on September 1st
that the federal government will enact a mandatory renewable content
for gasoline is one front on which we’re making progress—if you
accept using grains for biofuel is progress, and there is debate

about that. The food-for-fuel argument is one that keeps popping up.

I don’t have the definitive answer to
concerns like that, but it seems any movement toward investigating
other, cleaner fuel sources is a good thing. At least the biofuels
initiative gets us looking at, and evaluating, alternatives to fossil
fuels. There are also some potentially significant benefits for
farmers who could see new markets develop for their grain and
oilseeds.

“Support
for renewable fuels is support for farmers, rural communities and our
economy,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz in a government
press release. “This is a vital step in generating new market
opportunities for our farmers and maximizing Canada’s high quality
resources to produce food and fuel for the world.”

The
government says it plans to step up spending to stimulate biofuel
production in Canada, too. “The ecoENERGY for biofuels program…
will invest up to $1.5 billion over nine years in support of biofuel

production in Canada,” reads an information bulletin published
online by Natural Resources Canada, which will administer the funding
allocations.

On December 15th, oil
companies will have to begin including an average of five per cent
renewable fuel in all gasoline sold in Canada. According to
information published by the federal government’s website, this is
part of it’s policy of harmonization with U.S. regulations. But while
we’re talking about implementing a 5 per cent ethanol blend (E5), the
U.S. already has E10 regulations in place for many regions and a new
one making E15 available for cars built since 2007 (its use isn’t
recommended in older engines). So, eventual or partial
harmonization might be better terminology.

In all, U.S. refiners must use 12
billion barrels of renewable fuels in 2011; that threshold jumps to
15 billion by 2015.

Those higher ethanol percentages south

of the border seem to have really heated up the market for fuel-stock
corn. That has had a significant impact on Kansas, which has
traditionally been known for wheat production. According to the
Kansas Corn Growers Association, “In
eight of the last ten years, Kansas growers have produced more corn
than any other grain.”

When it comes to diesel, it is expected
Canadian federal regulations will be passed in 2011 requiring a two
per cent (B2) renewable content—some provinces are also moving to
make similar provincial laws. Final approval for this standard
depended on the outcome of a few different real-world evaluations of
B2 diesel use during Canadian winters.

One of those tests, the Alberta
Renewable Diesel Demonstration Project, proved B2 could be used
through cold weather. 59 over-the-road trucks used the blend through
2007-2008 without any problems.

“This critical demonstration project
confirms similar adverse condition tests in the U.S.A. and Europe.
Biodiesel is a viable tool in diversifying our energy supply and
reducing greenhouse gases in some of the harshest of Canadian weather
conditions,” said Gordon Quaiattini, president of the Canadian
Renewable Fuels Association, in a press release.

While we’re unlikely to see the
Canadian prairie follow the Kansas example and abandon current crops
in favour of corn production, increasing use of grains for biofuels
does suggest farmers may be facing entirely new marketing prospects
in the near future. We’re already seeing the trend with the increased
domestic canola crushing capacity for edible oils. It will certainly
be interesting to see how the market evolves over the next few years
when biofuels are thrown into the mix.

Scott

About the author

Contributor

Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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