Monday, May 22, 2006

Much To Do About Nothing

Tomorrow, the government is set to announce their renewable fuels strategy. Much will be made of this measure as proof of the Tories commitment to cleaning up the environment. The spinmeisters will use this initiative to blunt the recent criticism surrounding Kyoto. Look beyond the platitudes and you find tomorrow's announcement is much to do about nothing.

The standard of 5% renewables by 2010 is hardly ambitious, or anything new for that matter. The Tories "plan" is a simple recognition of what is already happening, or happened for that matter, not a new idea. If the government announced nothing, we would reach the target through provincial action and former Liberal government initiatives.

Don't forget:
Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are already moving forward on similar renewables content standards. In Ontario's case, all gasoline will be required to meet the 5% mark by next January.


In September, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty pledged to require gasoline sold in that province to be at least 5 per cent ethanol by 2007, and 10 per cent by 2010.

You do the math, but even if other provinces did nothing, which they aren't (as my Alberta Tory friends always point out), the already committed provinces alone would have accomplished most of the federal goal.

The government will project this initiative as something new and progressive, a commitment to cleaner fuels. Nevermind the economic realities that have forced companies to look at biodiesel on their own, coupled with already in place government programs:
Ethanol production received a boost today(July 05) as the Government of Canada announced a further $46 million to build or expand five ethanol plants across Canada. The successful companies were announced by Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Andy Mitchell on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Awareness is growing quickly in Canada due to biodiesel’s proven success in other countries and the current and projected prices of petroleum diesel. The potential for biodiesel in Canada is considerable with its abundance of feedstock resources, and by the fact that the federal government has stated a commitment that Canada will produce 500 million litres/year by 2010. The federal fuel tax exemption for biodiesel in 2003 helps provide the industry with an incentive for biodiesel to be priced competitively with diesel fuel.

Tomorrow's announcement will be lauded and promoted, as evidence of some deep commitment by this government. The initiative will serve its purpose, Ambrose can point too it everytime people cry foul on emissions. I see it as nothing more than an acknowledgement of a reality that exists anyways. Much bluster, little real relevance, outside of political leverage.


Mark Francis said...

It's a boost, and may lead to national standards, which are both a good thing; but, yes, the Tories will try to turn this into something that they can take credit for.

I've ehard they will also be pushing nuclear and clean coal technology at a later date.

In the end, whatever gets done environmentally in this country will likely be accomplished by the provinces, not the feds.

Look at the Energuide Housing program: New Brunswick and QUebec have already picked up what the feds dropped, and Ontario is talking about doing the same.

Steve V said...


It is a good thing, no question. I just reject any implication that tomorrow is part of some national plan and/or proof of federal action. If the Tories remained silent, the same events would take place- apart from the national standards angle which is easily reached, given the economic climate for these fuels.