Debates of the Senate  
  2nd Session, 39th Parliament,Volume 144, Issue 67.
    Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Orders of the Day: Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

Bill to Amend- Second Reading- Debate Adjourned

Hon. Bert Brown moved second reading of Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Would the honourable senator take a question?

Senator Brown: Yes.

Senator Dyck: Senator Brown, I wonder if you would make some comments with regard to the effect of biofuels on food production and food consumption in Third World countries. In a recent meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organization, they spoke about biofuels. What is your analysis of what came out of that meeting?

Senator Brown: In answer to the honourable senator, I believe that biofuels are definitely in their infancy, especially in Canada. I know that in the United States an awful lot of rhetoric about the dangers of global warming accelerated the process of biofuel in America. I am told they built 100 biofuel plants. Then, coincidentally, after seven years of less agriculture production than the world requires, they ran right smack into perhaps one of the worst food shortages in the world.

The United States, the largest producer of biofuel, uses only a very small fraction of the corn they grow for the production of ethanol. The U.S. produces 80 per cent of its corn for animal consumption hogs and cattle and 20 per cent for human consumption. Furthermore, the amount of corn used for export is negligible compared to the amount of wheat that it exports. My understanding is that most of the people suffering from a lack of food supply are dependent more on rice than on corn or any other crop.

Senator Dyck: May I ask a supplementary?

Ethanol production certainly was touted as a strong economic factor for Saskatchewan. However, it does not seem to have really taken off. Is that due to the change in the price of wheat so that ethanol production is no longer seen as a viable option for grain farmers?

Senator Brown: Again, the production and use of ethanol is in its infancy. There are two or three plants in Saskatchewan, but we need time to prove that ethanol and biodiesel are better in many ways. They are better concerning lower greenhouse gas emissions. They also produce more horse power for the same amount of fuel. As we move forward with this 5 per cent, we will find a number of things will happen. First, we will be able to use other things than the actual grain itself; we will be able to use the stalks of corn called corn stover. We will be able to use canola that is frozen because of an early frost. Frozen canola turns very bitter and is not suitable for humans, but the oil can be used as fuel.

Concerning wheat grains, there are a number of soft wheats that can be used in ethanol production. These wheat varieties have a high yield and are not the type that we would use for making bread; they are more suited to animal feed.

There is ample proof, both from the horse power standpoint and from the lower emissions standpoint that renewable fuel products, like ethanol or biodiesel, are certainly worth pursuing a ways down the road. That will allow us to prove whether we can produce them without using up farmland that produces food for people to whom we export. It will allow us to prove whether such crops are worthwhile, not just from the standpoint of lower emissions but economically as well.

I do not think you can judge economics from the small pilot plants that we have in Canada.

I know Americans are quite enthusiastic about the economics of biofuels, but I believe the government has put a considerable subsidy into the actual price of the product. That makes it more difficult to decide what the final economics will be.