By Andrew Snook
November 29, 2016 - What does it take to reduce GHG emissions and de-risk investment in renewable fuels in Canada? That was the topic of the second panel session of the Renewable Industries Canada Forum in Ottawa.
The panel session featured Dr. Warren Mabee, a professor of public policy at Queen’s University that specializes in renewables with a focus on liquid fuels; Sandy Marshall, executive director of Bioindustrial Innovation Canada; and Dr. David Bressler, a professor at the University of Alberta and the executive director of the Biorefining Conversions Network, which coordinates the development of applied technologies in the area of biomass conversion. President of S&T2 Don O’Connor moderated the panel session.
The first question posed to the panel was “Does putting a price on carbon solve our transportation fuel GHG emission problem?”
Warren Mabee stated that it’s not going to change people’s behaviours unless the price is high enough that it puts a dent in people’s pocketbooks.
“Not only do they need to feel the pain but there has to be alternatives… that is critical,” he told the crowd, adding that governments investing in reliable public transportation is one way to create an alternative for consumers.
David Bressler added that costs associated with the carbon taxes that governments are planning on implementing would not be a great influencer at the pumps since consumers are accustomed to dealing with the price volatility of oil when filling up.
He added that long-term, well thought-out policy will allow the renewables industries to compete more economically and allow for the rolling out of more renewable fuel options at a commercial scale.
Sandy Marshall said that the way governments choose to spend the revenues collected from carbon taxes will be a key factor for supporting new technologies that can create options for consumers as reasonable alternatives.
Mabee told the crowd that he feels that Canada’s federal government has not taken an aggressive enough approach to carbon pricing.
“When it comes to setting a target for reducing impact I would like to see something more aggressive,” he said. “I would like to see the federal government pushing for higher standards and more aggressive standards… it’s what’s going to get investment going into the sector.”
When it comes to meeting the GHG emission reduction targets that Canada has committed to meeting in 2030 and 2050, Mabee said that no one single policy will offer a solution. He said that it would take a combination of policies on GHG emissions and invest in research and development and de-risking new technologies.
Governments can play a key role by supporting the creation of new markets for bio-products through policy, and this will help attract the investors needed for the scaling up of new renewable products companies, Marhsall told the crowd.
“You need to have funding to de-risk technologies,” he said, mentioning the importance of government funding for Sarnia, Ont.- based bio-product companies BioAmber and Comet Biorefining. “Those would not have happened without government support.”