Canadians must seize opportunity
December 16, 2013
By Scott Thurlow
In recent years, Canada’s energy planning has become increasingly important – at times dividing sectors, governments and public opinion.
In recent years, Canada’s energy planning has become increasingly important – at times dividing sectors, governments and public opinion. Our resource sector is and will continue to be the backbone of our country, economy and national identity. However, many of the fuel products we produce, export and depend on, come with a cost to our environment. The challenge of capitalizing on our natural resources while protecting our environment is one of the greatest concerns facing our country. It is also an unparalleled opportunity.
Biofuels use is the best way to seize this opportunity. Renewable fuels can power our vehicles, diversify and extend our fuel pools, and protect our planet for generations to come. In Canada, we have built a billion-dollar domestic biofuels industry. Around the world, the global economy is also promoting expanded biofuels use and innovation with many jurisdictions introducing robust policy supports, program incentives and carbon pricing.
This presents a critical juncture for Canadian biofuels producers. Canada must compete with other resource-rich countries for fast-growing markets and scarce capital. And we must do it now.
Getting the most out of Canada’s biomass
Advanced fuel technology can make more bio-based products from a wider variety of feedstocks, including agricultural residue and solid waste.
Biofuels technology is the best platform for commercializing advanced renewable fuels and products. Canadian biofuels producers are integrating emerging technologies into their existing production platforms and making a wide variety of value-added outputs. For example, technologies exist to:
- Extract and refine corn oil to produce industrial lubricants, personal care emollients and nutraceuticals;
- Fractionate corn germ and bran to produce high-protein functional food ingredients;
- Extract “green hydrogen” through advanced anaerobic digestion processes; and
- Produce isobutanol from grain starches for use as a “drop-in” advanced biofuel or as a bio-based alternative for isobutene for the
manufacture of rubber.
We also have several Canadian biofuels facilities co-locating with new, first-of-kind biofuels projects and opportunities. By leveraging existing technology and infrastructure, the ethanol and biodiesel plants of today are poised to become the biorefineries of tomorrow.
These are new renewable fuels and products, derived from new feedstocks, being produced using new technology and processes.
In terms of building Canada’s bioeconomy, the question is not “if” we can get there – but how we can get there sooner.
A real, bio-based economy
Developing new, bio-based products takes ingenuity. Successfully bringing them to market requires investment and capital funding. The most important step to increasing renewable fuels manufacturing in Canada is strategic investments to manage the massive capital required for commercialization. Factor in the intense competition for attracting investment in the global marketplace, and time truly becomes of the essence.
This is why the CRFA is urging government to develop and implement a national bioeconomy strategy for Canada. This strategy should include:
- Capital funding targeted at the growing bioeconomy and commercializing sustainable bio-products;
- Tax programs that favour the use of sustainable bio-based products;
- Programs that support research, development and commercialization of new products from the traditional biofuels platform; and
- Fair recognition for the greenhouse gas reductions that renewable fuels and co-products generate.
Our choice, our future
Canada is blessed with a natural abundance of biomass. We have the industrial and refining capability to transform our biomass into a suite of renewable fuels and valuable co-products. All that remains is making the right decisions to translate this vast potential into a profitable reality.
Canada’s established renewable fuels industry remains focused on capitalizing on these opportunities to further diversify Canada’s energy supply. After all, this is what our industry has been built on. Now is the time to remember that and to take the steps necessary to bring us to the next logical step, a real bio-based economy for Canada.
The reward will be a cleaner, more prosperous tomorrow – for all of us.
W. Scott Thurlow joined the CRFA as President in April 2012. Trained as a lawyer, Scott specializes in federal and provincial regulatory policies, including health, environment, energy and chemical management. He is also an expert on the laws governing legislative processes, lobbying and elections in Canada.
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