Even in great big Canada, we might not have enough room

Corncob BobA Library of Parliament report on biofuels douses some cold water on the idea that Canada could produce enough ethanol for our own transportation needs:

Global production is still too small and the need for raw materials is still too high for biofuels to have a significant impact on the fuel market and be able to compete with fossil fuels.

The energy yield from ethanol or biodiesel depends on the feedstock used. For instance, one hectare (ha) of sugarcane grown in Brazil produces almost twice as much ethanol as the same area of corn grown in Canada. It would take slightly less than 2 ha of wheat or 0.6 ha of corn grown in Canada to run a car entirely on biofuel for one year,(3) while 0.3 ha of sugarcane grown in Brazil would provide enough biofuel for the same level of consumption.

By using 16% of its total corn production in 2006, the United States replaced 3% of its annual fuel consumption with biofuels. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), if 100% of the total U.S. corn production were used, that figure would rise to 20%.

According to an article in the New Scientist, Canada would have to use 36% of its farmland to produce enough biofuels to replace 10% of the fuel currently used for transportation. Brazil, by contrast, would need to use only 3% of its agricultural land to attain the same result.

The Canadian Renewable Fuels Association disputes all this figuring, but you’d expect it to. It’s likewise worth noting that the CRFA’s executive director, Kory Teneycke, is a former adviser to Mike Harris and Preston Manning, according to his CRFA bio, and its “press secretary” is Phil von Finckenstein, a former press aide to Stockwell Day. None of which means anything by itself, of course, but there are more connections between the biofuels industry and Canada’s governing Conservatives than a mutual love of corn.

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