Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Run to Rona

Rona Ambrose is the new Canadian Minister of the Environment. Apparently she will host the upcoming Kyoto Protocol II in Bonn. A fox in charge of the hen house. The Conservatives have made it clear, George Bush style, they want no part of the protocol despite Canada's ratification under the Liberals. So to-day she was in Regina meeting with provincial ministers of the Environment, Agriculture and Natural Resources. And industry (private sector) reps. This is part of the so called "Made in Canada" solution. The topic most discussed, ethanol. Canada is to go from .5% to 5% ethanol content in transport fuel by 2010. Since at best ethanol is a marginal energy saver and, correspondingly, emissions reducer, (depending on the process it may be a net loss to the environment) what is behind this strategy? This is how I distill the question. What it does is provide for the USA, whom we are imitating, a measure of independence of fuel supply. Ethanol will substitute for imported oil and reduce vulnerability to political vagaries from the likes of the arab states, Venezuela etc. In the USA they use biomass such as starchy foods like corn. In Canada the source is to be starchy wheat varieties or imported US corn or, alternativley, cellulose derived from trees, grain stocks, or leaves . Brazil uses sugar cane and accounts for over 20% of its transport fuel needs with ethanol. The enzymes are expensive to develop, Ottawa's Iogen being a world leader. So is Ambrose using this dubious ethanol initiative to distract us from our government's Kyoto machinations? I am still learning about biofuels and have no clear opinion. But we can always run to RONA to solve our problems, as the home supply retailer claims in its ads. Ethanol is the flavour of the month. A couple of years ago the hydrogen economy looked to be our future.