Biofuel blunder – by Douglas Auld (National Post – September 3, 2013)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

Lobbying trumped science as politicians lavished more than $100-billion in subsidies on morally suspect energy

The federal government’s decision to shut down the ecoEnergy program for biofuels is long overdue but does nothing to modify and substantially reduce existing biofuel subsidies that will cost the Federal treasury more than $1-billion by 2017. Add to that the myriad provincial biofuel subsidies and other forms of support, and the bill to taxpayers is staggering.

Canada is not alone in doling out large sums of public money for biofuels. Globally, in 2011 Canada, the United States, the European Union, China, India, Brazil and Australia, to name the major players, spent more than $40-billion on biofuel subsidies in the name of energy security, green house gas reductions and regional economic development. Since 2005 more than $100-billion worldwide has been allocated to biofuel programs with very little, if any, net improvement in reducing green house gas emissions.

In Europe, after years of subsidies and mandates, several countries are scaling back, albeit in a small way, their grandiose biofuel initiatives, particularly biodiesel production and consumption. The demand for feedstock oils from food and non-food plants, bushes and trees to feed the biodiesel thirst has imposed huge costs in terms of deforestation, land abuse and decreased water quality on those countries supplying the feedstock for biodiesel.

China has had to abandon its goals for corn ethanol production in the face of food shortages and the need to import vast quantities of corn. In the U.S., after years to transferring hundreds of millions of tax dollars to corn growers and the ethanol industry, it is now generally recognized that biofuels are not the answer to energy security.

The process of fracking the oil fields of the mid-west has taken its place, even though many of the biofuel support programs are still in place.

Substituting ethanol and biodiesel fuel for fossil fuels in vehicles has had little if any impact on reducing green house gases. Independent research using life cycle analysis has revealed that, at best, ethanol and most biodiesel fuel create about the same carbon footprint as gasoline. Even in those circumstances where there is a small improvement in green house gas reduction, the cost to reduce green house gas, in carbon dioxide equivalents, is hundreds of dollars per ton.

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