Renewable Fuel Standards: Good for the environment or not?

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Berpikir ke “kiri” sebentar ah… 🙂

Seperti yg juga saya tulis sebelumnya disini bahwa apakah benar biodiesel itu ramah lingkungan ? Ternyata ada juga orang lain yg berpikiran sama denganku. Mencari sumber baru bukanlah karena konsen dengan lingkungan. Ada alasan lain mengapa mencari sumber2 energi baru. Yang jelas ya karena manusia memerlukan energi. Sumbernya bisa dari mana saja.

Tanpa energi jelas kita tidak hidup.
Tetapi melakukan eksploitasi bumi tanpa mempengaruhi lingkungan adalah nonsense.


Jesse Row

*Published in GlobeAndMail.com (May 26, 2006)

By: Jesse Row (Director of Sustainable Communities Group, Pembina Institute), Matthew Bramley (Director, Climate Change, Pembina Institute)

Federal Environment Minister Rona Ambrose re-announced this week her government’s election promise to replace five per cent of the fuel at the pumps with renewable fuels (ethanol and biodiesel) by 2010. The question is: How much will this actually benefit the environment?

The overall environmental impact of ethanol and biodiesel depends on how the fuels are produced. If the fuels come from cutting down rainforests for cropland, or if coal is used to add heat to the process (as is done in some U.S. plants), then there is likely a negative overall environmental impact. Research shows, however, that as long as we make smart decisions, greenhouse gas emissions will decrease by using ethanol and biodiesel.

Unfortunately, the minister’s claim of “massive” emission reductions is very far from the truth. The reality is that a five per cent renewable fuel standard will reduce Canada’s emissions by less than half of one per cent.

As for reducing pollution – another of the government’s claims – scientists do not agree on the ability of ethanol and biodiesel to reduce smog. At the very least, most researchers agree that these fuels will not make air quality worse than it already is, but the degree of pollution reduction is uncertain at this point.

Renewable fuels could have greater benefits if agricultural waste or wood were used as the source of the fuel, especially if the fuel were used at high concentrations, as high as 85 per cent. This combination would result in significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and Canada has the technology to make this happen.

Unfortunately, the government proposal fails to fulfil this potential. For Canada to maximize its return on investment, it is critical for a renewable fuels strategy to go beyond a simple five per cent renewable fuels standard. And Canada needs to leverage its investment through measures to commercialize Canadian technologies that produce fuel from waste or wood.

For example, the Ottawa-based company, Iogen, is a world leader in cellulose ethanol technology. Cellulose ethanol, which Iogen produces from straw, results in greatly reduced emissions compared with corn or grain based ethanol. Iogen’s technology, and others, would help us achieve greater environmental benefits, strengthen our domestic industry and allow us to export technologies.

A credible renewable fuels strategy should also encourage more sustainable agricultural practices. Unfortunately, this week’s announcement made no mention of exploring these opportunities .
There is no doubt that national standards and coordination are necessary. Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan have all moved to create a renewable fuels standard within their respective jurisdictions. The federal NDP, Conservatives and Liberals all then included similar national standards within their most recent election platforms. A single national standard will make it easier for oil companies to supply fuel to multiple provinces and avoid the need to make special fuels.

It is particularly important to evaluate this week’s re-announcement of a renewable fuel standard within the context of other recent government actions. Since taking office, the Harper government has been cutting or freezing environmental initiatives – especially those designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – while the recent budget barely mentioned the environment.

Programs widely acknowledged as positive and effective such as EnerGuide for Houses – which provided strategic support for home energy-efficiency renovations – have been eliminated. The cancellation of EnerGuide put a brutal end to federal support for an environmentally and economically beneficial network of homeowners, provincial governments, utilities and the emerging energy efficiency industry.

When the facts are exposed, Canadians will not be fooled by Tuesday’s re-announcement. Since taking power, the new government has dismissed efforts to conserve energy and thereby make the economy more resilient, while proposing nothing to fill gaps left by the cuts. The government has placed itself outside the mainstream by abandoning the Kyoto Protocol at home and, according to media reports, blocking Kyoto negotiations internationally. The baby step forward represented by the renewable fuels re-announcement can in no way compensate for these troubling failures.

The key components of a credible, comprehensive climate change plan are well known. The top priority should be federal regulations to require reductions in the 50 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions that come from heavy industry. Regulations and financial incentives designed to deploy a diverse mix of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies would put Canada on a path to future energy security and help develop a future-oriented economy less vulnerable to pollution, smog and environmental degradation.

Switching to renewable fuels can make a difference, but it needs to be done well. It also needs to be combined with efforts to create a bold new national energy strategy designed to create safe, clean, reliable energy for the future while meeting our international responsibilities on climate change.

Jesse Row is the Director of the Sustainable Communities Group and Dr. Matthew Bramley is the Director of Climate Change at the Pembina Institute.

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