Province exempt from renewable fuel laws

Andrew Robinson
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— Photo illustration by Robert Simon/The Telegram; photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram; image by

The federal government’s decision to permanently exempt Newfoundland and Labrador from a two per cent renewable content requirement for diesel fuel and home heating oil may be partly based on logistics, but the head of a national association for renewable fuels believes it’s thanks to the lobbying efforts of the oil and gas industry.

And he says the exemption has implications for future generations.

“I think the oil and gas companies lobbied against the mandate, and they won,” said Tim Haig, acting president of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association (CRFA).

“I think people need to understand that you need alternatives.”

The new regulation came into effect July 1. Temporary exemptions for Quebec and the Maritimes will expire Dec. 31, 2012, giving them time to install biodiesel infrastructure.

Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province to be permanently exempted.

In an email to The Telegram, a spokesman for Environment Canada said that given the province has no local sources for biodiesel, it would be forced to transport the fuel long distances by truck and ferry.

The province was already permanently exempt from a rule requiring five per cent renewable fuel content in gasoline, which came into effect on Dec. 15, 2010.

The Environment Canada spokesman said Newfoundland and Labrador was exempt from that regulation for similar reasons.

The two renewable fuel measures will entail the production of more than 2.5 billion litres of renewable fuels each year nationwide.

According to a report card prepared last year by the CRFA, these measures will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Canada by 4 million to 4.5 millions tonnes per year.

Whether or not you believe the threat of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, Haig said it’s clear that easy oil will eventually become a thing of the past.

“People say the big thing is conservation and sure, conservation is important,” said Haig.

“But really, having alternatives is the only true (way) to ridding ourselves of the addiction to oil.”

The price of gas in Newfoundland and Labrador is higher than in any other Canadian province. Haig said without having alternatives to petroleum, there is no chance of the price coming down.

In an email to The Telegram, a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources said Minister Shawn Skinner submitted a letter to Environment Canada supporting North Atlantic Refining Ltd.’s request for an exemption.

She said there are a limited number of ferry crossings for fuel each week because of passenger ferry safety regulations, adding there are further logistical challenges when it comes to producing biofuels.

“For example, many of the province’s potential renewable fuel feedstocks already have uses such as feed for fur farms and pet food,” she said. “Diverting such feedstocks from their present uses to fuel production might not be the best use of these resources.”

Production problems

First-generation ethanol feedstocks such as corn, sugar cane and wheat are not produced in Newfoundland and Labrador, the spokeswoman said, and advanced biofuel production processes that produce ethanol from wood fibre have not reached the large-scale production stage.

The spokeswoman said the geography of the province would necessitate major costs for transporting feedstock from farms, fish plants, and sawmills to biorefineries.

Since 2005, biodiesel production capacity in Canada has experienced an annual average growth rate of 140 per cent, according to the CRFA report card.

However, growth in renewable fuel production in Atlantic Canada has been almost non-existent. A single demonstration facility using energy beets as feedstock was operating in Milford, N.S., according to the report card, otherwise there was no other production activity reported in the region.

The Department of Natural Resources has not detected any net benefits of an environmental or economic nature for implementing renewable fuel use regulations, though it continues to study the issue, the spokeswoman said.

In 2010, officials from the province’s energy, forestry and agrifoods branches of Natural Resources, Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Environment and Conservation formed a working group to develop a renewable fuels policy framework.

The Natural Resources spokeswoman said its goal is to determine whether the province has the potential to become a sustainable producer of renewable fuels or related technology.

“The group has been working diligently since that time to address several key issues including quantifying the province’s renewable fuel feedstocks, identifying the most promising technologies for converting them into biofuels, and identifying the uses for these fuels.”

The spokesman for Environment Canada noted the permanent exemption does not mean that a renewable fuel plant could never be built in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Organizations: Canadian Renewable Fuels Association, Environment Canada, Department of Natural Resources North Atlantic Refining

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Atlantic Canada, Quebec Milford Newfoundland and Labrador.arobinson

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Recent comments

  • Petroleum Distribution Software
    December 15, 2011 - 02:15

    I like your post it's really informative for us thanks for sharing keep it up!!! Petroleum Distribution Software

  • Brad
    August 07, 2011 - 14:35

    2% bio-fuel content is not going to save the world, on the contrary I would think it will cause more problems than good. Fuel ethanol production requires vast quantities of raw material ie. corn. The province does grow corn, but in limited supplies and those supplies are fully utilized right now so that's not an option. Even if it were, vast tracts of land would have to be cleared and habitat destroyed, so that's not really "environmentally friendly," now is it? Those of you crying for a cellulose extraction plant to be built should consider the amount of raw product required as well. I just can't see the gain in harvesting huge tracts of forested land for fuel and calling it environmentally friendly. The old adage "You can't have your cake and eat it, too" seems fitting here because really, new types of combustible fuel are not the golden key to sustainable living. The key lies in the lowering of consumption levels by society.

  • Gerry
    August 07, 2011 - 10:17

    Bio-fuel would have no problem getting started if it paid a competitive price for inputs. Did someone here say we had corn? Do you know now many thousands of acres of corn you need to feed a biofuel plant, it's a hell of alot more than the little bit growing here which is fully utilized to feed cows.

  • Jack
    August 06, 2011 - 14:02

    Since Newfoundland and Labrador's pulp and paper industry could vanish in the next 5 to 10 years, perhaps Nalcor and Korean National Oil Company should build a cellulose ethanol plant to convert wood fibre into ethanol, and maybe, just maybe, save the province's forestry industry. Stephenville, Corner Brook, and Grand Falls-Windsor, current and former pulp and paper towns, can benefit greatly from a wood fibre based cellulose ethanol plant. With Nalcor and KNOC's deep pockets, they can easily afford to build such a plant, and keep our forestry jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Jeff
    August 06, 2011 - 12:39

    It is morally repugnant that food is being turned into fuel.

    • Jack
      August 06, 2011 - 13:56

      Wheat, sugar, and corn are not the only foods being turned into ethanol. Eventually, wood fibre, grass, and other cellulose ethanol will be preferable as it uses less carbon dioxide and greehnouse gases than starch ethanol. Secondly, because cellulose ethanol requires than less inputs such as energy, fertilizer, herbicide than starch based ethanol, cellulose ethanol will make corn ethanol obsolete. In the case of Newfoundland and Labrador, if the province wants to produce cellulose ethanol, the best place to do it is in Corner Brook area.

    • mary
      August 06, 2011 - 16:22

      Jeff, I have a problem with this also. I am all for trying alternate energy sources and reducing the use of oil when it truly is feasible, however, using a food source as an energy source is not something I like. Jack notes that corn is grown in this province and he is correct, however, I doubt that it is at a level that can be used for bio-fuel. I buy that corn to eat and I sure as heck wouldn't want to see that turned into a fuel source. If the yield can be increased, great, and use it as a food source only.

  • California Pete
    August 06, 2011 - 12:32

    WAA WAA WAA you know where the money is. Grow up and start to smell the roses

  • Jack
    August 06, 2011 - 09:29

    Since Korean National Oil Company, North Atlantic Petroleum's parent company, has deep financial pockets, they can clearly afford to build a renewable or bio-fuel plant, especially in Come By Chance or Corner Brook. There's no reason why they should be exempt from producing bio-fuel and modernize Newfoundland and Labrador? Because Corner Brook's economy is mainly dependent on the forestry sector, and newsprint demand keeps declining, the city will definitely benefit from a wood fibre bio-fuel plant.

  • Jack
    August 06, 2011 - 08:46

    After reading the article about lack of available bio-fuel in Newfoundland and Labrador, I found some of it misleading. It says that corn is not produced in this province. That's is not true at all. In fact, in Western Newfoundland, you see corn fields scattered throughout the Humber Valley area. As for Shawn Skinner, since he seems to be anti-environment, and want to leave the province in the energy dark ages, I don't think he will be fit for another term in the 2011 general elections. If he wants Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to have the same energy benefits as other Canadians, we should get bio-fuels as well, even if they have to truck it from other parts of Canada. In the meantime, I encourage every Newfoundlander and Labradorian to lobby Environment Canada and Natural Resources Minister, Shawn Skinner, to bring this province out of our dark ages and bring bio-fuels to this province. Shawn Skinner, you job is to ensure we have the same benefits as other Canadians, not leave us out with no access to renewable energy like bio-fuel. If you fail, then you don't deserve to serve us.